By the time he was ready for work Tuesday, Jim Keefe had fielded calls from ABC, Fox News, and People magazine, among many outlets. They wanted him to talk about his friend and neighbor, Bill Richard.
Richard is, of course, the man whose 8-year-old son, Martin, was being mourned worldwide Tuesday after losing his life in the Boston Marathon attack Monday. His daughter and wife were also in the hospital being treated for horrific injuries, including an amputation.
Keefe had good reason not to talk to any of the people calling him: In his shock and grief, he didn’t feel he had any commentary to offer about his friend Richard. In fact, he hadn’t even talked to Richard since the tragedy.
“I have not had the courage to call him,” Keefe said softly. “I have not had the courage to e-mail him. I can’t imagine what he must be feeling right now or what I could say.”
His confusion was understandable. Monday was the day terror came to Ashmont, a relatively quiet section of Dorchester in the midst of a renaissance. Keefe and Richard are part of a committed group of residents who have brought a string of improvements to the area, including a rebuilt MBTA station, two popular restaurants, and the Carruth Building, a mixed-used building that introduced new condos and fancy coffee to an area that used to feel like time had stopped decades ago.
Richard was a key player on the building of the Carruth Building and renovation of the T station. “Bill was the go-to guy to make sure everyone's voices were being heard,” Keefe said. “When he speaks, people listen.”
So on Tuesday Keefe’s neighbors grieved with him. But grief was not the only emotion of the day. There was also shock and disbelief that terrorism — an evil associated with grand targets and foreign evils — could somehow find its way to their Dorchester neighborhood.
“When you think of all the ways you could get killed living in Ashmont, terrorism is the last one you would think of,” Keefe said.
The effects of the attack will resonate across the area for years to come. Hours after the race was shut down, shell-shocked runners and residents in the Back Bay seemed to be wandering around in a communal daze.
Yet the tragedy seemed to resonate in a unique way in Dorchester. The big antique clock in Peabody Square had been stopped at 2:50, the time of the first explosion, and wrapped in black bunting. A man with an accordion sat on the bench underneath it playing “Amazing Grace.”
A block away, on Carruth Street, police were stationed to keep reporters and the public away from Richard’s house and his grieving.
Keefe happened to be in Copley Square Monday himself. His sons Nicholas and James were running the race and reached the finish line just before the explosion.
Standing a few blocks away, he didn’t hear the explosions, but he experienced the chaos that followed them.
“It turned euphoria into gloom,” he said.
Euphoria to gloom: It was like that for everybody. Some people compared Monday to 9/11 but the comparison didn’t feel right to me. Despite the horrendous loss of life in those attacks, Boston never felt like the target. This time, the terror has come right after us.
Whatever the intent of this attack, it will fail. It will fail because Boston’s unity and passion are too strong to let it succeed. Next year’s Marathon will be run with a catch in our collective throats, but run it will be. Just watch.
The reckoning has already begun. One of the calls Keefe took Tuesday was from the priest at All Saints Church, another Ashmont anchor.
“I told him, ‘For my part, Father, I’m just trying to sort this out,’ ” Keefe said. Like everyone.