Below are Aimee Murphy's remarks at the 2021 Vigil for Justice held by Rehumanize International and Death Penalty Action to honor the lives lost at the 2013 Boston Bombing and call the Supreme Court to not reinstate the death penalty in the case of United States v. Tsarnaev.
Read more about this case here.
My name is Aimee Murphy, and I am the founder of Rehumanize International. We are a human rights group whose ethical system is commonly called The Consistent Life Ethic. This philosophy is dedicated to the idea that each and every human being shares the same inherent human dignity, and therefore that each of us deserves to live free from aggressive violence. I want to welcome you to this vigil for justice and mercy, and thank you all so much for joining us this evening. During this vigil, I want to call all of us to meditate on the word “rehumanize.” It means, “to restore to humans the sense of selfhood and individuality,” or “to recognize and respect the inherent dignity of human beings after they have been dehumanized.”
The annual Boston Marathon took place just earlier this week, and tragically, the event has become synonymous with the pain and suffering of hundreds of people. As you probably already know, about 8 years and six months ago, on April 15, 2013, two explosives went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The blast killed three people, wounded 264 others, and traumatized countless U.S. citizens whose family and friends were harmed in the terrorist attack.
Martin Richard, age 8; Lu Lingzi, age 23, and Krystle Campbell, age 29 were all killed by the explosion. In the days after the bombing, a search for the pair of terrorists ensued, and on April 18, 2013, at approximately 10:30 pm, MIT campus police Patrol Officer Sean Collier was shot and killed by the two suspects wanted for the terrorist bomb attack during the Boston Marathon. He was ambushed and shot multiple times by the suspects while seated in his patrol car on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Tonight, I want us to begin by rehumanizing the victims of the bombers: those whose lives were snuffed out by a horrific act of indiscriminate violence. After we hear each of their stories, I will say the phrase, “we remember him or her” and I’d like you all to repeat my words, and then we will take a moment of silence to ponder their dignity, the goodness of each of their lives, the beauty of their existence, though snuffed out so young… so young, that all of them are younger than I am today.
Martin Richard was the 8-year-old son of Bill and Denise Richard, and the younger brother to Henry, and older brother to Jane. His friends remembered their pal as a top-notch soccer player who would joke about food coming to life, and once dropped a sandwich, caught it on his foot, and then ate it on a dare. He was a third-grader who had just made his first communion at his Catholic parish the year before the bombing, in 2012. A photo of Martin holding a handmade sign spread across the Internet in the weeks that followed the bombing; the sign read “No More Hurting People, Peace.” Martin’s earnest commitment to peace became the impetus for the Martin Richard Foundation, which has worked to advance Martin’s values of sportsmanship, inclusion, kindness and peace by investing in programs that encourage young people to celebrate diversity and engage as community leaders. Martin’s parents started the foundation in January 2014, and have even published an open letter in the Boston Globe, opposing the death penalty for their son’s killer despite the fact that both Denise and Jane (Martin’s younger sister) suffered severe injuries from the explosion.
We remember him.
Lu Lingzi was a 23-year-old international graduate student in mathematics and Statistics at Boston University at the moment of her untimely death. She was born on August 17, 1989, to a loving traditional Chinese family. As an only child, her arrival brought so much joy to her parents and grandparents. Since she was a toddler, she had a great love of books. She followed her grandpa everywhere because he always had a lot of books around him. She was also the family entertainer and loved performing for her parents. As her grandmother put it, “where there was Lingzi, there was fun.” Through her school years, she pushed herself to study hard and never stopped challenging herself; setting goals higher and higher. While pursuing academic success with great determination and discipline, she blossomed into a young lady. Lingzi also enjoyed playing piano and guzheng—a Chinese traditional instrument. She had a great appreciation for food, especially American ice cream. Lingzi loved nature’s gifts with great curiosity, and had a tender heart towards animals, especially those in need. She is remembered as having a big heart for the people around her. We remember her.
Krystle Campbell was a 29-year-old Medford, Massachusetts native with a great sense of humor and the freckles and red hair that spoke to her Irish roots. She attended the University of Massachusetts, Boston where she was working on a degree in business management. She worked various jobs at locally-based restaurants, and was well-loved in her community. She is remembered for her amazing smile, her infectious energy and enthusiasm, and her kindness toward family, friends and co-workers alike. One of her closest friends said after her death, “I could tell you so many stories about Krystle, you’ll never understand the impact of her loss. You’ll never understand why she is so desperately missed by all those who love her.” Her parents, Patricia and William, remember her as someone who loved her dogs, had a heart of gold, and was a “Daddy’s girl” who worked tirelessly at everything she did. We remember her.
Sean Collier was a 26-year-old son of Kelley who was raised alongside his siblings Andy, Nicole, Jennifer, Jenn, and Rob about an hour outside of Boston, in Massachussetts. Sean graduated from Wilmington High School in 2004 and received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with honors from Salem State College in 2009. At the time of his death, he had been working at MIT as a campus police officer who was known as being perhaps unique in that he took a genuine, kind interest in the lives of the students around him. While a part of the MIT community, he took classes in dance and was a member of the Boston Lindy Hop community. He was known as someone who loved his cats, one of who he’d adopted when it needed to be re-homed. We remember him.
These four precious, unrepeatable lives were ended during that terrible April. Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev made the choice to engage in violence when they opted to place two deadly bombs full of shrapnel near the finish line of the internationally-renowned race. The terrorist attack was reportedly motivated in retribution for the decades-long wars waged by the U.S. in Afghanistan and Iraq. The tragedy here is that we see the violence of war precipitate further violence on our own soil; and that violence on our own soil then is again being threatened with more violence. But I want us here to reflect on the words of the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” This principle he learned from Jesus’s Gospel nonviolence, but he also saw it lived in the actions of Mahatma Gandhi, who also said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
Violence doesn’t bring healing and liberation. Violence begets violence. So tonight, in rehumanizing the victims of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s cruel and dehumanizing violence back in 2013, we also seek to rehumanize him, too. We recognize that anti-Muslim hate, or seeking the death penalty in revenge for his crimes will only continue the cycle of violence and trauma.
Tonight, I want to offer a short prayer with those of you who pray,... and ask God to show us, and the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, the path to mercy. Gracious God, Source of all Life,
You bestow your life and love on each of us and call us to be a just and merciful people. Guide our efforts to work for justice in our legal system.
Strengthen the resolve we need to abolish the death penalty and continue the work for more just laws that respect the life and dignity of every person.
We pray to you, God of Justice and Mercy, for justice that restores right relationships while we work to address the root causes of violence. Please help us to live the principle that each and every human being has intrinsic dignity just because they are human. When we acknowledge the truth that “hurt people hurt people,” please help us to be bearers of peace and mercy, and to live the axiom that “healed people heal people.”
God of Light, please help us to drive out darkness not by further darkness, but by the light of love for our fellow man. Inspire our collective efforts to enact laws that safeguard the human rights of all: that honor the victims, that protect the community, that hold the perpetrators accountable, that promote restorative justice not vengeance.
God our Redeemer, stir our minds and hearts to act today to speak out against the death penalty and to unite in solidarity with others who strive to defend and uphold the sanctity of all life.
We ask this Source of All Being, Eternal Word and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Join us tomorrow October 13th, 2021 at 9:30 AM to rally and hold signs calling the Supreme Court justices to choose life, justice, and mercy in this case.
More information can be found here.