Bagpipers filled the warm spring air of Dorchester’s O’Donnell Square with the melancholy strains of Irish ballads this morning as they marched down Freeport Street to St. Ann Parish.
Eight members of the Boston Police Gaelic Column played “The Dawning of the Day” and “Leaving of Liverpool” as prelude to a memorial Mass for Martin Richard, killed April 15 in a bombing at the Boston Marathon, who would have celebrated his ninth birthday today.
Martin’s sister, 7-year-old Jane, lost a leg in the explosion. The children’s mother, Denise, suffered a head injury and lost vision in an eye. Their father, Bill, received shrapnel wounds and burns to his legs and suffered hearing loss. The eldest child, Henry, was unharmed.
Hundreds of mourners from across Dorchester and around the region filled the stately red-brick church, where the Richard family regularly attends the 10:30 a.m. Mass.
The crowd ranged from seniors to the very young. Some of the smallest children bounced up the church’s front stairs toting stuffed animals.
Out of respect for the Richard family’s privacy, church officials asked reporters to remain in a designated area across Neponset Street.
Richard family spokesman Larry Marchese, a longtime family friend, told reporters after the Mass that Bill Richard paid tribute to the beloved little boy his family has lost and the man he might have become.
“I think that was very powerful,” Marchese said. “It touched everybody that was in the church today.”
As the Mass progressed, restless boys and girls periodically emerged from the church to run and play, too young to fully comprehend the day’s grim purpose.
Kenny Blasi, owner of Blasi’s Café on Adams Street, was among the hundreds in attendance. He said he did not know the Richard family well but had seen them in the café and around the neighborhood.
As a father of children close in age to the three Richard children, Blasi wanted to pay his respects to the family, he said. He was deeply impressed, he said, by Bill Richard’s ability to stand up before a crowd of hundreds and speak of the son he lost.
“I thought it was unbelievable,” he said. “I don’t know if I could do that.”