A 65-foot banner created in memory of Martin Richard went missing from its home on Savin Hill Bridge on Wednesday after highway workers removed it.
“No more hurting people... peace.” Those words were penned by Martin Richard, of Dorchester, for a classroom poster. An image of Richard holding that sign became iconic in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings that took the 8-year-old’s life.
Dot Art, a Dorchester community art program for children, came up with the idea of immortalizing those words on a banner. It would hang over the Savin Hill Bridge, overlooking I-93 where commuters would see it. Twenty-five people between the ages of 3 and 75 helped paint the banner, which was initially iinstalled a year ago after the Marathon bombings.
The banner was installed again last week, to commemorate Richard and his message of peace. A few days later, strong winds tore the banner, which had been made from old wallpaper. Dot Art painted a new one on Sunday after a carpenters’ union provided the banner and a flower shop donated ribbons. The new banner was painted in the blues and yellows of the Boston Marathon.
The banner was seen Wednesday morning, but it was missing by the evening commute. People chimed in on Facebook and Twitter, many expressing concerns that the banner was stolen.
“I think people assumed the worst because it has such an emotional attachment,” Dot Art director Liz Carney said. “They’re protective.”
As it turns out, the reality of the situation was much less sinister than the speculation. The banner was taken down by the Massachusetts Highway Department to protect it from wind damage.
A MassDOT spokeswoman told WBZ-TV:
"Our maintenance staff assigned to that area proactively took the banner down as the winds kicked up. We have the banner safely stored at one of our depots," MassDOT spokeswoman Sara Lavoie said.
Carney guessed it might have been the highway department from the beginning, she said. Others told her that state workers would have called if they had removed the banner.
“I don’t know why they didn’t reach out,” Carney said, “but we’re just glad to know it’s fine.”
Dot Art has more plans for the new banner. Carney said her group wants to feature quotes from other Dorchester children on the other side of Richard’s message. She hopes the banner will “carry on a legacy of positive messages” to the community.
This year, Dot Art planned to paint the words of a local girl named Maxine, who is also 8 years old. Bad weather forced the group to reschedule. The message would have read:
“I hope this world can be kind.”