BOSTON — Third-grader Martin Richard had just gotten ice cream and was near the Boston Marathon finish line, eagerly watching for friends to run by.
Then the unthinkable struck. The spirited 8-year-old with a wide grin who dressed up one Halloween as Woody from Toy Story was dead — a victim of twin blasts that turned a scene of celebration into chaos.
"I just can't get a handle on it," said Jack Cunningham, a longtime friend of little Martin and his family. "In an instant, life changes."
Cunningham recalled how, as a pint-sized preschooler, the boy had insisted on getting out of his stroller during a 5K race in South Boston. As soon as his mom let him out to run with the rest of the family, Martin took off along the rainy race course.
"He was just having a ball, splashing in every puddle," Cunningham said.
The boy's father, Bill Richard, released a statement thanking friends, family and strangers for their support after his son's death.
Richard's wife, Denise, and the couple's 6-year-old daughter, Jane, suffered serious injuries in the blasts. Their older son, Henry, wasn't hurt. Two neighbors said that Jane lost one of her legs in the attack.
"My dear son, Martin, has died from injuries sustained in the attack on Boston," Richard said. "My wife and daughter are both recovering from serious injuries. We thank our family and friends, those we know and those we have never met, for their thoughts and prayers. I ask that you continue to pray for my family as we remember Martin."
U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, a family friend, said Martin and his family were trying to get over the race barriers and into the street after the first blast, when the second bomb struck.
"They were looking in the crowd as the runners were coming to see if they could identify some of their friends when the bomb hit," said Lynch, who has known the Richards for 25 years.
Bill Richard, a runner and cycling enthusiast who had stayed out of the race because of an injury, had to have several ball bearings removed from his leg, Lynch said.
On Tuesday, a candle burned on the stoop of the family's single-family home in the city's Dorchester section, and the word "Peace" was written in chalk on the front walkway. A child's bicycle helmet lay overturned near the front lawn.
At a nearby park, the words "Pray for Martin" were written in large block letters on the pavement.
Next-door neighbor Betty Delorey said Martin loved to climb trees and play sports with his siblings and the other children in the neighborhood.
"I can just remember his mother calling him, 'Martin!' if he was doing something wrong," the 80-year-old said. "Just a vivacious little kid."
"He had that million-dollar smile and you never knew what was going to come out of him," said Judy Tuttle, a family friend. "Denise is the most spectacular mother that you've ever met and Bill is a pillar of the community. It doesn't get any better than these people."
She recalled having tea recently with Denise Richard, who is a librarian at the elementary school both Martin and his sister attended, while Martin did his homework.
"What a gift," Tuttle said of the 8-year-old. "To know him was to love him."
Kevin Andrews, headmaster at the Neighborhood House Charter School, said the school community was heartbroken by the loss of the third-grader, whom he called "a bright, energetic young boy who had big dreams and high hopes for his future."