by Rick Winterson


   To say that it was a “celebration” strikes the wrong note.  It was a “bittersweet” occasion.  But there was something “uplifting” or even “solemnly joyful” and “fitting” about breaking ground for the park at Children’s Museum dedicated to Martin Richard’s memory.  Martin Richard left us because of the Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013.  He won’t return, but Martin’s Park assures us that he’ll never be forgotten.

Such it was by the Children’s Museum at 64 Sleeper Street early last Wednesday afternoon.  The sun shone brilliantly on an event formally called “Martin’s Park at Smith Family Waterfront, Groundbreaking Ceremony, 1:00 p.m., August 16, 2017”.  A crowd of perhaps as many as a thousand gathered across Fort Point Channel from downtown Boston, on the grassy plot in front of the Children’s Museum.  They were there to witness the groundbreaking.

One thing in particular was more than just “a nice touch”; it was “stirring”.  Young people of or near Martin’s age – he was 8 years old at the time of the 2013 Marathon – were given shovels along with construction workers’ safety vests and helmets.  They were the ones who actually broke ground for Martin’s Park at the end of the program, and they were justifiably excited.

Fr. Sean Lennon invoked a poignant Blessing that reflected on the fragility of our lives; Boston’s Park Commissioner Chris Cook ably emceed the groundbreaking’s speakers program, which was set against the towering backdrop of Boston’s skyline.  Mayor Walsh offered heartfelt thanks to everyone involved in the establishment of Martin’s Park – it is to be built along the Smith Family Waterfront on beautiful plots of land donated by the MBTA and the Children’s Museum.

Perhaps the most stirring remarks were offered by Gov. Charlie Baker.  He spoke of how Boston will finally get a park dedicated to Martin Richard’s memory.  Baker emphatically stated, “We are taking this awful experience and building something beautiful out of it.  Right now!  I look forward to coming back here to open this park in 2018.”  Gov. Baker closed by stating how fitting it was that Martin’s Park would be devoted exclusively to children playing.  Baker is an excellent speaker; he delivers speeches with dignity and with an unmistakable emotional impact.   He received a well-deserved spontaneous standing ovation at the end of his remarks.

Martin Richard’s family attended the groundbreaking – his father Bill Richard, his mother Denise, and his sister and brother, Jane and Henry.   Jane read her remarks in a clear voice, referring especially to how Martin’s Park will be accessible to everyone.  Jane lost her left leg in the Marathon bombing and she now wears a prosthesis.  Bill Richard repeated that Martin’s Park is for play – slides, basket swings, log climbing, and rope climbing, embedded in a carefully landscaped nature trail.  With the Children’s Museum in the background, it will be a destination for kids that memorializes Martin Richard forever.

And then about a hundred children in construction gear lined up, took their shovels, and broke ground for Martin’s Park.  South Boston Online can only say, “You just simply had to be there”.  Please make it a point to be at the opening of Martin’s Park a year from now, in the fall of 2018.