An evening of reflection for Garvey Park assembly
It seemed at first that the rain – which had fallen softly throughout the afternoon, but threatened to pick up steam by mid-evening – might keep the crowd away.
But, as the 7 o’clock hour neared, neighbors began to stream into Garvey Park through the entrances on Neponset Avenue. They came in clusters and sometimes in larger packs with hoods and ball caps and scallys to shield against the elements. Some clutched the Stars and Stripes, which they then unfurled while bracing against the wind blowing in from Dorchester Bay.
For most of those who assembled Tuesday evening it was something of a reunion: A larger group flocked here on April 16 of last year for a similar vigil organized to show support for the Richard family – already well-known and respected here before the unfathomable Patriot’s Day horror that made them household names.
Joe Conway, owner of Savin Scoop on Savin Hill Avenue, was one of them. He was carrying the same large American flag that he’d brought here last year. “This is Dorchester,” he said. “I had to be here.”
By the assigned hour, at least 1,500 had gathered on the muddy grass facing the Devine Rink. City Hall workers, dispatched by the Mayor’s office, hastily assembled a platform as the crowd swelled.
Mayor Walsh, who arrived just as the stage was assembled, stood off on the edge of the crowd in his raincoat. He greeted constituents and friends warmly, but hoped to avoid taking the stage. He had made one speech already on this day and it was enough. This was not an event that called for a speech from the mayor or any other politician. The televised memorial service at the Hynes Convention Center had already filled our ears with rhetoric — some of which soared and some that gently salved wounds still raw.
Garvey’s gathering offered neither the time nor the place for speeches.
Bagpipes, played by volunteers recruited on Facebook and by the blogger Dot Rat, took the stage first and, without introduction, played Amazing Grace and a few other appropriate tunes. A member of the Walsh administration, Francisco Urena, the commissioner of Veterans Services, moved through the crowd, passing out small American flags.
Then Fr. Sean Connor, the former pastor of St. Ann’s Church, took the microphone. He persuaded the mayor to join him on the platform, although Walsh demurred when invited to speak. He was there as a neighbor, not as the mayor.
Connor had just left the Richard family. After a long day that began well before 7 a.m. – and included an emotionally grueling series of events – the family had retired to their home for the evening, he said. They wanted to be there at Garvey Park, Connor said, but the day had taken its toll.
The priest, per usual, injected levity into his brief remarks— needling his former parishioners for what he’d heard was the absenteeism at Mass since his departure last summer — when he’d been “run out of town.” All joking aside, he said: “All I want to say to you is to echo what you’ve heard here— we are very blessed to have our roots here.”
Connor then led the crowd in a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. With that, the “formal” program ended. As the dignitaries dispersed, the kids in the crowd, many of them classmates or teammates of Martin, Jane, and Henry, broke out into an impromptu singing of “God Bless America.”