‘Bowels of hell’: Commission to probe history of Mass. state institutions


State Sen. Mike Barrett, who also spearheaded the legislation for the special commission, recalled his college years in the 1960s, when a mentorship program brought him to Fernald to play with a 6-year-old boy. Barrett struggled to understand why the boy, who appeared to have no cognitive defects, was at the school, surrounded mostly by older adults.

“His story and the story of everyone with whom he lived hasn’t been told. We don’t know, even to this day, much about the lives that were lived,” Barrett said, drawing an analogy to The New York Times’ 1619 project that reminded “all of us that we don’t really know our own history as a country, or as a state, or as a community.”

“The truth here has eluded us,” Barrett, a Lexington Democrat, said of Fernald.