As her four young children excitedly peered over a fence in Cleveland Circle in Boston’s Brighton neighborhood watching the city’s historic marathon last year, Vivian McNeeley remembers smiling at the heartwarming family moment, but only for a minute.
The horrific tragedy at the Boston Marathon finish line changed everything. Within moments, three spectators were killed and 264 others were injured when the terrorist bombs exploded.
Two of the victims were siblings — about the same ages as two of McNeeley’s own children. Martin Richard, 8, of Dorchester, was killed while his sister, Jane Richard, now 8, lost a leg.
The Andover mother said the late Martin Richard reminded her of 10-year-old son, Max. And Jane Richard was an Irish step dancer, just like McNeeley’s own 8-year-old daughter, Angela.
Add that to the fact that McNeeley, who ran the 2012 Boston Marathon, would have been on the 26-mile course last year had it not been for a foot injury she was recovering from and there was a lot for her to absorb.
“The parallel was just incredible ...,” McNeeley said. “Since I couldn’t run, I went in to watch the race with my family. I have a picture of my kids standing on the railing watching the runners much like the photo of Martin taken moments before the bombs went off.”
The horror of the day left her feeling the need to help in some way, she said.
“I knew I wanted to do something, donate to the One Fund or something to help those families,” she said. “I’m a Boston native and this is my city, my marathon ....”
Now, a year after the tragedy, she has indeed done something locally to help the victims, the Richard family in particular. That something is on display at Memorial Hall Library in Andover.