On Monday, more than 30,000 people will run the 26.2-mile course from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, to downtown Boston. About a million people will line the streets to cheer them on.
If all goes as planned, it will be a day of accomplishment, triumph and joy for those who have given their all for the chance to run the world’s oldest annual marathon. It will be a day to be proud of them and to be proud of the Boston region.
On Tuesday, the focus will return to one of the men who stole that triumph and joy two years ago. He robbed it from thousands of runners. He stole it from the millions more who were cheering them on. He stole life from three people on what was supposed to be a day of pride and accomplishment. He stole the life of another days later. Some 260 others are forever maimed because he stole a triumphant and joyous day. Millions others are scarred in other ways.
The 12 jurors who a week-and-a-half ago handed down a guilty verdict for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s role in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings will return to the courtroom on Tuesday to decide the 21-year-old’s fate.
The death penalty is an option, though all 12 would have to agree on it. Life in prison without the possibility of parole is the other.
The thousands of runners who compete on Monday won’t allow their day of triumph to be stolen again, and the millions who cheer them on won’t either. But just a day later, Tsarnaev’s fate will dominate many people’s attention.
We think the smallest likelihood he has of becoming a martyr for the misguided cause that drove him and his older brother to destroy others’ lives two years ago, the better. We think the jury should listen closely to two people who — along with their children — should be honored this year and for years to come.
Bill and Denise Richard suffered unspeakable loss two years ago. Standing near the finish line, they lost their 8-year-old son, Martin. Their 7-year-old daughter, Jane, lost her left leg. Denise lost sight in her right eye. Bill suffered blown ear drums and still hears ringing. Henry, then 11, escaped without major physical injury but witnessed his family’s incalculable loss.
On Friday, Bill and Denise Richard made their wishes for Tsarnaev public.
“We know that the government has its reasons for seeking the death penalty, but the continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives,” they said in a letter published by The Boston Globe. “We hope our two remaining children do not have to grow up with the lingering, painful reminder of what the defendant took from them, which years of appeals would undoubtedly bring.
“For us, the story of Marathon Monday 2013 should not be defined by the actions or beliefs of the defendant, but by the resiliency of the human spirit and the rallying cries of this great city,” they said.
In other words, the death penalty keeps the focus where it shouldn’t be — and for years to come.
That’s not what Martin Richard deserves. It’s not what his parents, his sister and brother deserve. It’s not what Krystle Campbell deserves. It’s not what Lingzi Lu deserves. It’s not what Sean Collier deserves.
On Monday, the Boston Marathon’s 30,000 runners and the millions who cheer them on deserve to be the center of attention, and no one else.