Ever since the bombing in Boston, I am quite sure this image of Martin Richard pulls on anyone’s heart-strings.
I could not – and still cannot get this vision out of my mind. What a beautiful child. The expression on his face holding the sign, priceless.
Most people feel helpless when something so painful happens to others. We all long to take the pain away from the parents, the victims, the families. But what can we do? How can we heal ourselves and others?
I have wanted to write a song for Martin for a while now. I did not want to write it too soon. But I felt it was time. And strangely enough, at my last book show, one of the audience members asked me when I was going to write a song for Boston. He told me he had lost his wife in 9/11 and said that my “WE Bless America” song helps him cope. I was touched beyond words.
The next day I went into Boston for the first time since the bombing. I had a similar feeling as I did the first time I went into Manhattan in 2001. This was not quite as eerie, but my legs got numb as I approached Copley Square.
The images were powerful. Boston Strong written everywhere. Stuffed animals, Red Sox caps, little hand prints of children painted for the victims. And the most profound items were empty sneakers hanging all around.
I couldn’t sleep well that night. I tossed and turned, and at 5 am I got up and wrote my song for Martin.
I could barely get through it without crying. I sang it once for Scott at 7 am, and then I staggered through a taping to capture the moment. (As I looked like crap in my pj’s.)
I could hear the production. I couldn’t wait to lay it down in the studio! And I heard a chorus of children and adults.
Then I thought, if I could raise enough money from the song, I would fund a bronze statue of Martin to put in Copley Square. It would be the exact image of him in the photograph, holding the sign. Martin is the face of Boston Strong. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for his family, and all of Boston?
That evening was my Lincoln Sudbury High School reunion. I played the very raw recording for a couple of classmates. There were tears. (Also because we all look a lot older.)
Then I chatted with Jeff Davison, who is a music teacher. I spontaneously said, “Hey! You have a bunch of singing students, right?” He said, “Yes.” (He was still as cute as he was in High School, too!)
The wheels were cranking in my head. My only window is Memorial Day…here goes….
I asked Jeff if he thought he might rally up a group of his students to sing my song, ummm, and, do you happen to know anyone with a studio?
He actually knew someone, shot him an email then and there…ten minutes later, a response!
We are in! And then he said he’d reach out to his students the next day.
Well, Monday we had 17 students, on Memorial Day, come to share their voices and love for Martin.
It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. I’m tearing up now just thinking how wonderful, and innocent most kids are. I could have easily taken all of them home to adopt, although that might not go over so well with their folks.
The first kid to show up was Zach. I said hi, and he looked remarkably like Martin. I pulled him aside in the lobby of the studio and asked him to sing the line, “No more hurting people, peace and love.”
OH MY GOODNESS! He had the sweetest most precious voice. I said, “Come with me!”
We went right into the studio, before the other kids showed up, and recorded his part. The tears welled as I listened and watched this adorable boy deliver the line.
Then the gang showed up. And I had them sing individually to put in groups in the vocal booth. They were all great!
No more hurting people
Peace and Love
Martin I hope you hear us from above
BOSTON LOVES YOU
BOSTON MISSES YOU
BOSTON WILL REMEMBER YOU
YOU ARE THE FACE OF BOSTON STRONG
The kids understood the significance, and although they were young, there were emotional reactions, tears and smiles. But they all sang their hearts out.
Scott and I arrived much earlier to the studio, (Studio 101A), which was in New Hampshire on the Mass line. I had quite an agenda before the kids from BYPC arrived. I needed to lay down my guitars, a scratch vocal, drums and bass before 4 pm! Well, we did it, a bit rushed, but we did it. Two more classmates volunteered to play. Alan Goodrich on drums, and Al Bonasoro on Bass. AND Richard Kostick came with 3 cameras to shoot the whole thing! On top of that, another 3 adult voices, Jennifer Keaney, Alex MacDougal, and Brook Meggs came to lay tracks on the massive chorus, which has a sort of ballgame vibe of voices. (And Jeff – who also played piano.) All of us formed a circle around the room mic, held hands, and belted it out. It was amazing! We also streamed the last minute project. I will post it, as soon as I can figure out how!
Another classmate of mine, Alison Ledger, knows some of the faculty to the school where Martin attended. I’m hoping to get the song to his family. Of course it won’t bring their son back, but his memory is etched in stone in all of us. He’s a son of Boston forever. And I hope this statue will be mounted for all to heal a little.
I cannot thank the students, Jeff Davison, Tom Holmes for his generosity to donate his time and studio for this project, and all of the musicians. It’s not done…and it looks like I will be coming back to New England to finish up the project after my New Jersey show. I hope to see the kids again and maybe perform the song together upon my return! What do you say kids?
THE STUDENTS OF BYPC School who sang!
Hannah R (the Hannahs)