scorecardresearch Skip to main content
Part Two of Two

For Richard family, finding strength

It had been 10 weeks of hospitals and surgeries, of therapy and slow recovery, of fearful memories and inklings of hope. And now it was time for the Richards to go home. There was so much uncertainty ahead, but also so much they wanted to do, for others, for Martin.

(Boston Globe) For the Richard family of Dorchester, it has been a long year in search of renewal and hope. By David Abel and Scott LaPierre
(Boston Globe) For the Richard family of Dorchester, it has been a long year in search of renewal and hope. By David Abel and Scott LaPierre

There was too much empty space in the back seat.

When they finally loaded up all the gifts and headed home, there was more anxiety than joy, more concern about the unknown than relief.

They were leaving the hospitals after 10 grueling weeks, but Bill and Denise Richard worried whether they were prepared to look after their Jane, who continued to require so much care. They also fretted about how they would fill the downtime, without all the doting care and the regimented schedules of the hospitals.

Returning home also meant sleeping across the hall from Martin’s vacant room. Bill had never entered what had become, for them, hallowed space on any of his brief visits to the house. And it had begun to feel like his decision in April to return only when they all could be there had been a defense mechanism, a way of delaying the inevitable reckoning — that their family would never be the same.

When Jane had met all her rehabilitation goals, and her room at home had been redone to be more accessible, the staff at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital organized a farewell party. There were songs and tears and hugs. They would be leaving nurses who had become like family and a perch overlooking the water that had brought a measure of serenity.


On their way home in their Ford Explorer, the Richards stopped at the Ninety Nine in Charlestown, where the staff immediately recognized Jane, brought her an ice cream sundae, and refused to take the Richards’ money. Afterward, they picked up Henry, who had just come off a boat from fishing camp, and as they made their way back to Dorchester, Bill looked through the rearview mirror and began to feel the deep void in the back seat.

When they arrived at their 19th-century slate gray Colonial, which they had spent years refurbishing, they found their yard had been raked and mulched. Newly planted flowers were in full bloom and there were freshly potted plants, ceramic birdhouses, and a geranium on the back porch, hanging on a prop adorned with Jane, Martin, and Henry’s names. All courtesy of Bill’s colleagues at work. There was also a fresh coat of paint on the house and a new alarm system.


Bill carried Jane up the five granite steps of their front porch into the foyer, where nearly everything was as they had left it that morning in April. Martin’s bucket of baseballs, his glove and catcher’s equipment, his new baseball cleats and Reebok sneakers, all remained untouched. In the kitchen, Martin’s Red Sox backpack still hung a few feet from his now-famous heart-covered peace poster. Easter baskets remained on Martin’s desk and on the floor of Henry’s room, long after they should have been stowed away.

If Bill and Denise worried about sinking into a mire of gloom, Jane offered an antidote of levity.

When she saw her room, which had a new bed and bureau lower to the ground and fresh blue and yellow paint, she was ecstatic. She jumped up and down and hugged all her stuffed animals, except Bunny, who had been with her at the hospitals.

But there was a long way to go before they would feel at ease back in Dorchester. For one thing, they arrived shortly before the Fourth of July.


Bottle rockets. M-80s. The constant booms made them jittery and sleepless, triggering memories they longed to forget.


Summers for the Richards had often meant a trip to the house they shared with relatives in New Hampshire, where the kids swam and hiked and played. But the idea of returning there without Martin was too much.

They needed new memories.

Inspired by the boats they saw from Spaulding, they took up sailing on the Charles River. The kids learned how to rig a boat and how to hold the wind on a tack. It was a peaceful respite — most of the time. Denise’s lack of peripheral vision made it a challenge to keep track of swinging objects, and when she wasn’t looking once, the boom slammed into her head. She laughed it off.

The more time Henry and Jane spent together, the more they squabbled over trivial things, like who would hold the tiller on the boat or where they would sit in the back seat of the car. Bill and Denise had worried how they would get along without their brother as a buffer, but the tiffs reflected how Henry was starting to see past his sister’s wounds, marking the return of some normalcy.

RESUMING LIFE AT HOME: Inspired by the boats they saw from Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, the family took up sailing.Richard family/handout

Through the summer, Henry remained busy with various day camps and appeared to be coping well. But unexpected things sent him into a funk, such as when he discovered a text message that Martin had sent him early in the morning on April 15 had disappeared. At random times, he would look forlorn and tell his parents, “I miss Martin.”

Jane continued a regimen of potent drugs and adapted to the uneven floors at home, hopping around on crutches and ringing a bell at night if she needed to use the bathroom. She returned to Spaulding several times a week for physical therapy and went to Children’s Hospital every month for checkups.


At one appointment over the summer, doctors discovered a bone growth at the tip of her limb. It’s a common side effect of amputation, they said, but it also meant they might have to delay providing Jane a prosthesis for up to a year.

The news was disheartening for Bill and Denise, who were already struggling with the heaviness of their new lives. They were making regular visits to the mahogany, heart-embossed cross marking Martin’s grave, less than a mile from their home. They also began sitting in his room, which would remain untouched for the next year, the Red Sox and Bruins posters remaining on his door.

Bill avoided parks in the neighborhood where he and Martin used to play ball. Denise joked that everyone they knew, including their deli clerk, was getting therapy to deal with Martin’s death — except them. They were too busy, they said, too focused on other things.

In time, the pace of life and activities resumed. Henry practiced relays with his track team at Joe Moakley Park in South Boston.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe staff/Globe Freelance

Bill, still in pain from an unsuccessful operation to repair his ruptured eardrums, continued to struggle making restaurant reservations for four and found himself instinctively grabbing five plates for dinner, having to put one back.

After a while, they were happy to see neighbors, but it wasn’t always comfortable. Some weren’t sure what to say to the Richards and felt strange talking about themselves, at times apologizing for carping about things that seemed so trivial by comparison, like a backache.


But Bill and Denise were buoyed by a steady flow of good will.

Friends brought meals; others left gifts. The community’s support was enormous. They received several million dollars raised for them directly and from the One Fund, the charity for Marathon bombing victims. The money was placed in trusts for Jane and Henry. There were gifts from celebrities. Taylor Swift sent a hand-painted guitar. Patrice Bergeron of the Bruins donated an autographed hockey stick. They received flags flown at half-staff on military bases in their honor. Someone even sent a bronze statue of Martin holding his peace poster.

Bill and Denise also began reading the thousands of letters from around the world, such as one that touched them deeply from a 9-year-old boy from Pittsburgh, who included a medal he won after playing a flag football game.

Upon returning home from Spaulding, Jane took stock of the many quilts she and her family received as gifts.Richard family

“I told my dad that I wanted to play the game for Martin,” the boy wrote in a careful cursive on notebook paper. “I ran for a touchdown, threw a touchdown pass, and had an interception for a touchdown. I told my coach after the game that I played it for Martin, and my coach gave me the game medal. I wanted to give it to you. I hope you like it.”

By August, they received good news. Jane’s orthopedist and prosthetist agreed they could build an artificial leg that would allow her to safely bear weight using her thigh, rather than her limb, where the skin remained raw.

Now Jane would be able to walk on two legs on her first day back at school, just as Bill and Denise had hoped.


After missing the last months of first grade, Jane couldn’t wait to get back to school. She was eager to see all her friends and teachers.

Shortly before classes resumed, Jane and Denise went to meet the principal. They discussed Jane’s schedule and whether she would need a personal aide.

By late August, she had spent several weeks learning how to walk on her new prosthesis, a clumsy, exhausting process. It amazed her parents to see her ambling about. Still, it was precarious going, and Jane took her share of spills. The prosthesis was difficult to use compared with the more sophisticated artificial leg she would get later. She had to be prodded to wear it.

When the first day of school arrived, Jane had little interest in the symbolism of the moment. She was more concerned with dressing up for the special occasion, which to her meant wearing a skirt. She never showed the slightest hint of self-consciousness about revealing her injured leg, which she called “Luvvy.”

It also meant leaving her prosthesis at home, because she wanted to wear her favorite red cowboy boots, which didn’t fit on the artificial leg. She would instead walk into school on her crutches, wearing just one cowboy boot.

Jane also wore a locket necklace with angel wings inside — to keep Martin close to her heart. Her teachers marveled at her resilience. But they would keep a close watch on her, as would Denise from the library, and Jane agreed to take what they called regular “brain breaks” throughout the day to rest or chat with a social worker.

Jane didn’t dwell on her limitations and even hoped to play soccer that fall. But her differences from the other kids became evident at recess, when at first she was only allowed to play on the swings, which she insisted on pushing as high as she could go. Denise had to warn her not to jump off.

As time passed, she began wearing her prosthesis to school and leaving the crutches at home. She even began to run, which started as a skip and then as a kind of gallop. By winter, she was back playing basketball and attending dance classes.

A diligent student, Jane kept up with her homework — practicing her handwriting and grammar — and even wrote poems. “Peace is a special feeling,” she scrawled in one titled “Peace.” “It is a wonderful feeling to have. If you have never had the feeling of peace, that’s too bad.”

She was so at ease with her plight that she performed a show-and-tell with her prosthesis, removing her sneaker to show classmates how she could paint the toenails. They asked her questions, especially the boys, and she patiently explained things like, yes, she could swim, and no, she couldn’t play soccer, at least not yet.

Jane brought a relief that few expected, but there were grief counselors for her brother’s friends at the start of school, as many of them still struggled with his absence.


Bill and Denise resisted efforts to make Jane into an emblem of resilience or of Boston Strong. Publicly celebrating her recovered vitality felt wrong, almost unseemly.

Even before they returned home, the Richards received offers to honor Jane, like many other survivors of the bombings.

During the Stanley Cup finals, the Bruins invited Jane to wave a flag on the ice before the sixth game. The crowd doubtlessly would have roared for her, the Richards knew, but it just wasn’t right. They couldn’t revel without Martin, who idolized the Bruins, regularly watched games with his dad, and would have given anything to stand on the ice.

Instead, with Jane’s cast decorated in the team’s colors, they quietly accepted an offer to slip into TD Garden with a police escort and watch the game from a suite with the arena’s CEO. When an image of their son unexpectedly appeared on the Jumbotron, Jane looked up and said, “Hey, there’s Martin’s picture!” Bill and Denise were taken aback.

A few months later, for the season opener at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots invited Jane to take the field for a pregame ovation with others wounded in the attack. But it was on a Thursday night, and Jane had school the next day. Bill and Denise also worried about exposing her to a national audience.

So Bill brought Henry. They entered the field through the player’s tunnel and planned to stay on the sidelines, expecting to remain anonymous, which was easy without Jane. Their first jolt came when the team took the field to an explosive fireworks display. Then, without any warning, Martin’s picture appeared on the Jumbotron, this time with an announcer saying his name before the large crowd. It was one of the first times Bill had heard Martin’s name spoken so publicly, and it caught him off guard. He and Henry held each other tight.

It was hard for the Richards to attend games without Martin, especially at Fenway Park.

But when the Red Sox reached the playoffs, the Richards decided to relent. The team asked Jane to appear with her youth choir to sing the national anthem before the second game of the American League Championship Series. As long as she wasn’t singled out, and the Red Sox didn’t alert the media in advance, they thought it would be fine.

Of course, Jane was unmistakable as soon as she walked on the field, and not just because of her leg. The team made “B Strong” shirts for all the kids in the choir, but Jane was wearing Martin’s Pedroia shirt and refused to change. So she took the field as the only singer in a jersey.

Somehow, she also ended up in front of the other kids, as if she were the lead singer. “What should we do?” Denise whispered to Bill, as they watched from the first base line, increasingly nervous.

Jane was liable to do anything. Denise worried she might start singing opera or the “Sun will come out tomorrow.”

Their police escort, jokingly, offered to cut the mike.

But Jane led the choir with poise, even playing a glockenspiel, and they left without anyone seeming to notice — until pictures cropped up later on Twitter and local websites.


As the holidays approached, they felt Martin’s absence even more.

The first challenge was getting through Halloween, which the kids always loved, particularly Martin, who was a glutton for candy, especially Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Bill and Denise weren’t eager to welcome a parade of kids to their door and wondered whether fewer might turn up, as some neighbors shied away from their house. But they put on what they described as their “happy faces” and doled out chocolate bars and lollipops so quickly that they ran out early. Jane and Henry, even if unintentionally, evoked Martin. She reprised her brother’s zombie costume from the year before and he wore Pedroia’s jersey, trick-or-treating as a bearded Red Sox player.

A RELUCTANT ICON, AN UNMISTAKABLE GIRL: The Richards resisted efforts to make Jane a symbol of resilience, but they agreed to a public appearance when the Red Sox asked Jane’s youth choir to sing the national anthem before a playoff game. As long as she wasn’t singled out, they thought it would be fine. Of course, Jane was unmistakable as soon as she walked on the field.Jim Davis/Globe staff/Globe Staff

As Thanksgiving approached, the Richards struggled with whether to go to Bill’s sister’s house in Danvers, as they usually did. They worried their presence would be hard on everyone.

So they decided to change things up by starting the day with the annual turkey trot jog through Franklin Park. Denise pushed Jane in a wheelchair. With a few hundred yards left, Jane insisted on getting up and running, a feat that drew loud cheers from the crowd as she limped across the finish line into Bill’s arms.

Afterward, they drove up to Danvers and felt the tension almost immediately. The kids — especially Martin — would ordinarily spend the afternoon throwing a football and playing in the yard. Not this year. Everyone stayed inside. They also skipped their tradition of having everyone in the family say what they were thankful for.

Bill decided, this time, something had to be said. To clear the air before dinner, he raised a glass, looked at his family, and managed, somehow, to get out the words, “To Martin.”

As the cold returned, December loomed on the calendar. For years, they held a big party at their house on Christmas Eve, with neighbors and relatives stopping over for drinks, caroling, and gathering by their player piano to sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” The kids often went to bed early, eager for Santa to come.

This year, they abandoned their traditions. Instead, they boarded a train for Washington, D.C. — they couldn’t fly because of the damage to Bill and Jane’s ears — and went to the White House, at the invitation of the Obamas. They were there for a holiday party and spent the afternoon walking through the West Wing and mingling, until the president and first lady arrived to greet everyone.

Afterward, they were escorted to the Map Room, where they met privately with the Obamas. The first lady asked Jane how she was feeling and complimented her on her navy bow dress and her pearls, which were another gift from Taylor Swift. They talked about school and sports, and Jane began playing with the chiffon dress worn by the first lady, who began stroking Jane’s hair, just as she did at the hospital.

When the president asked Jane what her favorite part of the White House was, she answered: “the decorations.”

The president joked in response: “I was up all night setting them up.”

Before they left, the Richards signed postcards to pledge acts of community service to honor the sacrifices of military families. Jane wrote that she promised to clean her room for 21 weeks, signing her postcard: “Be Safe. Peace. Love, Jane.”

When school vacation started, they left the city again. They found a room at a New Hampshire hotel they hadn’t been to before and brought a small plastic Christmas tree, which they decorated with their own ornaments.

In December, the Richards went to the White House at the invitation of the Obamas. Jane marveled at the holiday decorations; the president joked in response: “I was up all night setting them up.”Richard family

The change rattled the kids, who wondered whether they would have to leave Boston every year at Christmas. But Henry was appeased when he heard they would go skiing, and Jane perked up after her parents explained that Santa would visit the hotel, too.

Jane had asked Santa for a running leg, a special prosthesis with a springy hook for a foot, while Henry hoped for new track shoes and a running watch. Their wishes came true, though Jane would have to wait a while to get hers.

On Christmas Eve, they all dressed up, enjoyed a big meal at the hotel, and swapped stories about Martin.

For Bill and Denise, it was good to sit around and relax for the first time in months. It wasn’t until a few days later, after they returned home, that what they were trying to escape caught up with them, especially for Denise.

It was New Year’s Eve, when the Richards would often be on Boylston Street to watch the First Night parade. Denise was picking up sausages at the butcher shop for breakfast the next morning when she heard a few people talking about how they couldn’t wait for the end of 2013.

Their words struck a nerve. As awful as it was for her family, the idea of leaving 2013, of moving on to a new year, felt deeply unsettling.

It felt like leaving Martin behind.


In the oversized binders on the table in front of Bill and Denise were more than 250 applications, from 35 states and as far away as Asia, Europe, and South America, from people who wanted to run the Marathon in Martin’s honor. They came from a member of Congress, a Hollywood producer, a dozen CEOs, firefighters, nurses, teachers, students.

The applicants offered detailed answers to a long list of questions, some written by Henry and Jane. One mom wrote about how she ironed a patch on her 8-year-old son’s baseball uniform as a tribute to Martin. The Richards “should be going to [their son’s] Little League games, too,” she wrote. A father reflected on the pain he experienced after losing an 8-year-old cousin. “I saw what our family went through,” he wrote.

After all the money collected from lemonade stands and step dancing troupes, all the gift baskets and notes left on their porch, all the random acts of kindness that came their way, Bill and Denise learned how much giving could be a source of healing.

With the Marathon only a few months away, they decided it was the optimal time to launch their foundation. The Boston Athletic Association had offered them a host of valuable charity bibs, which would help them raise a significant amount of money. It was an opportunity they felt they couldn’t pass up, even if it meant dredging up deep emotions.

They had already met with lawyers and drawn up the documents, built a website, and found help to start the team. Their mission, refined since the meeting in their dining room a few months before, was to honor Martin by supporting the things he loved: sports, education, and the community.

At the end of January, the Richards and their inner circle of John, Erin, and Larry met at a Hyatt in Braintree with their new team manager, Susan Hurley, a former Patriots cheerleader who helped charities raise money for the Marathon.

As they flipped through the hefty binders, Denise and Bill emphasized they weren’t looking for who could raise the most money; they wanted runners who would make the best ambassadors for the foundation.

After several hours of debate, they nixed applications that focused too much on defying the terrorists and others that seemed self-serving. They grew tired of reading about “that poor family.” They wanted their 50 bibs — which were hard to come by — to go to those who clearly felt compelled to run in Martin’s honor. Sincerity was a deciding factor.

“If they don’t know Martin’s story, forget it,” Larry said.

Bill added: “You can tell who was denied elsewhere.”

Eventually, they would choose more than a dozen runners from Dorchester and others from 15 states, including wounded veterans and first responders. The team would eventually grow to 100 runners, among the Marathon’s largest.

A MOMENT OF QUIET AMID A WHIRLWIND: The house was alive with activity as the Richards began setting up their foundation, which provided a welcome distraction. But they worried about when things quieted down.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe staff/Globe Freelance

Two weeks later, the Richards mustered the will to throw a party for their team, which they held at the State Street Pavilion overlooking the field at Fenway Park. Many of the out-of-state runners flew in. A number of VIPs attended.

It was an uncomfortably public moment for them, and the kids, as they found themselves accepting condolences in something like a receiving line. But they accepted it as something they had to do for the foundation. They had support from friends and family, including Father Sean, who began the evening by reading a prayer about peace and telling the team what it took for the Richards to join them.

“Where there is horror and darkness in the world, you teach us to turn to the light,” he said. “You teach us to draw close to the light and to push away the darkness — in fact, to conquer it. That’s why we’re here tonight.”

Mayor Martin J. Walsh, a neighbor who had known the family for years, was there and showed the team a bracelet he had been wearing in Martin’s honor for months and thanked the Richards. “You lift up the whole city,” he said. “This is what Boston needs.”

When Bill finally stepped to the podium, he spoke through tears. “We knew that we would do something to honor Martin, but it never occurred to us that we’d be here tonight, so soon, even before the first anniversary,” he said.

He explained why they started the foundation: “It became clear to us over the last few months that we would not run from the [Marathon] but embrace it to help us heal, to honor my son and his message, and to pay it forward.”

He ended by recalling that day on Boylston Street, when Martin asked his parents how old he had to be to run the Marathon, and how he had promised one of his teachers he would run with her when he was old enough. That teacher was on the team, too.

Bill urged the runners to think about Martin as they trudged up Heartbreak Hill and to whoop it up in his honor when they crossed the finish line.

“His first marathon is yours,” he told them.


The following months were a whirlwind of supporting the team and ordering gear, monitoring the fund-raising, and securing sponsors. Overseeing the foundation had become something of a full-time job for them — Bill remained on leave and Denise was working part time — but they had many other concerns.

Jane still had regular medical appointments and was recovering from yet another operation — her 15th — to close the perforations in her right eardrum. She would require additional surgeries over the years to manage the growth of her limb.

Henry suffered a blow when his beloved betta fish Hank — who survived their long absence from home with the help of neighbors — bellied up one day in the kitchen. But he took the loss much better than his parents expected and used the occasion to prod them for something he wanted deeply.

“Now can I get a dog?” he pleaded. The answer was no, and remained so even after Jane promised to walk it every day and wash the dishes for three weeks.

The strain of it all sometimes got to Denise, who managed her stress with long walks. It was hard having to rely on friends and Bill to take her anywhere from the hairdresser to the supermarket. One day, when her frustration peaked, she grabbed her keys and tried to drive off in her Volvo station wagon. But, perhaps fortunately, the battery was dead.

Nearly a year later, after a second operation to repair his damaged left eardrum, Bill’s hearing had improved slightly but the ringing had become intolerable. He was managing it now through medication and meditation, but the tinnitus would still occasionally surge.

It wasn’t all gloom.

In February, they celebrated when Henry turned 12, even though they had to talk him out of taking a polar plunge off Tenean Beach, as he did after New Year’s. For Jane’s eighth birthday, which was on Valentine’s Day, they hosted a gingerbread-making party at a nearby bakery, which had raised thousands of dollars for the Richards by selling peace cookies in Martin’s honor.

A month later, the Richards drove to United Prosthetics, a century-old family business in Dorchester, where Jane took her first bouncy steps on her new running leg. She was ecstatic and wore it to school. She didn’t want to take the “cheetah” leg off. “It’s like giving a kid a driver’s license,” her prosthetist said, warning her to go easy.

Jane, meanwhile, exulted in her new prosthesis that would offer her the ability to run. She hugged Gary Martino of United Prosthetics, who had helped fit and adjust it.Scott LaPierre/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Perhaps the best news came soon afterward, when the Richards logged on to a city website and learned that Henry had been accepted to Boston Latin School, which was like getting into Harvard for a sixth grader in the public schools. He was one of only about 500 students in the city to receive such an honor.

To congratulate him, Jane drew balloons on signs she posted around the house, which read: “Good Job Henry!”

They began some long-pondered renovations to their house, creating an office for the foundation on the third floor and refurbishing the basement into a playroom.

All the activity provided a distraction, which they welcomed, even though it raised concerns about what would happen when things quieted down. “I worry about when the music stops,” Bill said.


Still, there was the inescapable weight, dark thoughts that continued to gnaw.

When Bill needed relief, he would head upstairs to the sitting room, light a cedar pine candle, and meditate, concentrating on his breathing.

He would focus on the moment — the present — to banish the memories that still came out of nowhere, even if they didn’t hit him every few minutes, as they did in the beginning. Then he would begin reciting the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis.

He’d say it again and again.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon . . .

The sound of the second bomb was different than the deep thud of the first. It was higher-pitched and earsplitting. Suddenly, everything had slowed down and there was a deafening silence.

Bill was blown into the street and staggered as blood dripped from his legs. In a fog, he peered into the smoke and thought: What happened? Where is everyone? Where is my family? Denise had been knocked to the ground, beneath a pile of people, and felt a wetness trickling from her right eye.

Henry was holding his head, saying, “Mama, my head. My ears.”

She tried to calm him, still unsure of what just happened. “It’s OK,” she said. “We’re going to go now.”

Then he looked at her. “Mama, your eye!”

Denise turned around and saw Martin. He was lying on the sidewalk. Strangers were trying to help him. They were bringing ice from a nearby restaurant. They were flagging down paramedics, who arrived quickly but found that his pulse had vanished from everywhere but his neck.

Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; And where there is sadness, joy . . .

Denise knelt by Martin while Henry brought Bill to Jane, who was in shock and clearly suffering. Her hair was burned so badly that she looked like a boy. Bill carried her across the street, where a man took off his belt and wrapped it around Jane’s leg.

Bill pulled Henry close to him, trying to shield him.

“Is this really happening?” Henry asked.

With others helping Jane, Bill began to search for Denise and found her beside Martin. He looked at his son, who was more like him than anyone else in the world, and knew right away.

For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.


Bill and Denise knew little about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was accused of dropping a backpack on the ground a few feet from Martin. They didn’t even know how to pronounce his name, and preferred it that way.

They had no energy to waste on anger, they said, and spent little time thinking about who or why anyone would do such a thing. They knew, in the end, there was no rational explanation.

They told Henry and Jane that they shouldn’t be worried about anyone else trying to attack them. They weren’t targeted specifically, they explained; it was just happenstance. They were standing in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The Richards had mixed feelings about attending the trial. “The sooner it’s over, the better,” Denise said. “The longer it drags out, the worse it is for our family.”

Bill added: “I don’t have interest in being there. But if we were given any indication that our testimony or presence was necessary, we’d be all in. Until we’re given that, we’re moving forward.”

Their main concern had already been put to rest. The suspects no longer posed a threat.

“I’m not sure where we’d be emotionally now if these two guys weren’t caught,” he said.


As April approached, administrators at Jane’s school decided to mark the anniversary by having the students do service projects. Jane’s teacher asked whether she would take a leadership role in the second grade, and she was flattered.

“I’ve always wanted to be a leader,” she said.

So she stood before her class and explained how something scary happened last year, how a lot of people were injured. “As you know, my family was there,” she said, “and I got hurt.”

In honor of Martin, she said they would make hers a peace project. At home that night, after finishing her homework and with her new mission in mind, Jane went to the cellar door in the kitchen, where Martin’s peace poster was still hanging. It had the word “love” written twice on it now, and there were more hearts and peace symbols, reflecting her brother’s finished work.

Jane looked at it and thought it would make an excellent prop for her new project. So she took it off the wall, folded it up, and packed it in her backpack.

When she told her mother later, matter-of-factly, that she was taking Martin’s poster to school the next day, Denise was floored. She explained to her daughter it would be better to leave it at home and took it back for safekeeping. The poster had become her son’s emblem, the core of the family’s fledging foundation, perhaps the ultimate symbol of the tragedy of the bombings.

Still, Bill and Denise remained wary of the relentless focus on them.

In the weeks before the Marathon, with officials expecting record crowds to line the course in a show of defiance, everyone seemed to want to know what they would do.

With a team of 100 runners who had raised more than $850,000 by early April for their foundation, they had a lot invested. There were many people to cheer for, many to thank.

At the least, the Richards planned to take part in the city’s tribute on the anniversary of the attack, six days before the Marathon. That would mean a trip back to Boylston Street, under police escort, perhaps the closest they would come to where they were standing that day.

They would also field a separate team of 150 runners — their junior varsity squad — to take part in the BAA’s annual 5K that Saturday. That would mean Bill, Denise, Henry, and possibly Jane, as well as many of their relatives and friends, would join thousands of others running the final leg of the Marathon, making the famous right on Hereford and left on Boylston, across the finish line.

Afterward, they planned to join other bombing survivors for a tribute run around Boston Common, and then have the kids take part in the same relay race on Boylston Street they had competed in in previous years, with Martin.

Jane, however, had experienced a recent setback. Her parents found blisters on her limb, requiring her prosthetist to make adjustments to her artificial legs. So she was back on crutches and using a wheelchair.

They wouldn’t prod her to play a role.

“She will only do it if it feels right,” Bill said. “We wouldn’t put her out there as a statement.”

The day before the race would be Easter, a time for reflection and spiritual renewal.

What would come next for them, they didn’t know.

They would wait for the right moment to decide. Whatever they did, they said, it would be with the kids. All three of them.

A CHANGE OF PLACE AND PACE: The Richards walked along Truro’s shore in August. The summer routine, often a trip to New Hampshire, took on a different meaning without Martin. They needed new memories.Richard family/handout

David Abel can be reached at him on Twitter @davabel