Last week marked the two-year anniversary of the bombing at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev set off two pressure cooker bombs that killed three people and injured hundreds. The brothers turned a day in Boston that is celebrated with joy, Marathon Monday, into a day of horror that no Bostonian will ever be able to forget, least of all Bill and Denise Richard.
On April 15, 2013 the Richards lost their eight-year-old son, Martin. This loss added to the injuries that each individual family had to face, such as the Richards’ seven-year-old daughter, Jane, who lost her leg in the explosions. What should have been a happy day watching the marathon, ended in a tragedy that no person should ever experience, that of losing a child. Despite this heart-wrenching loss, the Richard family has recently asked federal authorities to drop the death penalty charges against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. They fear the years of appeals could “prolong reliving the most painful day of [their] lives.”
Richard and Denise wrote an emotional letter on the front page of The Boston Globe on Friday, April 17, 2015 titled “To end the anguish, drop the death penalty.” The letter thanked the efforts and life-saving measures of all the first responders on the day of the bombing, and stated they are very appreciative that justice has been served, but they pleaded that the death penalty punishment to be removed in order to allow their lives to continue on. Like they so beautifully wrote, “As long as the defendant is in the spotlight, we have no choice but to live a story told on his terms, not ours. The minute the defendant fades from our newspapers and TV screens is the minute we begin the process of rebuilding our lives and our family.” Since the letter has been released, there has been no comment from law enforcement, and there probably will not be any comment. However, there will probably be some remarks from politicians as the story gains more attention.
This is the moment when all of the politicians start debating the merits of the death penalty. Is it ethical for a government to kill a citizen because that citizen killed someone? Is life in prison worse than the death penalty? The rhetorical questions go on and on. Certainly, we can expect to find a 2016 presidential contender taking an opinion on this issue, alongside the plethora of other hot-button social issues such as abortion and gay marriage. While these are important issues and ought to be debated, politicians shouldn’t let politics overpower a tragedy.
While reading the letter I did not interpret the Richard’s request as political in nature. To me, they seem to be a family tired and weary from the struggle they have faced. They have lost their son, their daughter was maimed and they will be forever scarred emotionally at the tragedy of Marathon Monday. They are not asking a political favor; they are asking for peace.
Therefore, as an avid political junkie, I ask politicians to put politics aside in this matter. Don’t use this tragedy as a political gain. While this request is clichéd and improbable on multiple levels—realistically, a politician will always use a tragedy in their favor—if it is asked enough, maybe one day it might happen.
So, to Denise, Bill, Henry and Jane, I am so sorry for your loss. I will never know the extent of your pain, but I hope that one day, you will find peace.