May 4, 2004
Circle Of Hope Ceremony For Murray Draws People
By Gary E. Lindsley
Fred Murray couldn't help but dab at his eyes as Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's version of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" enveloped the 20 people gathered for his daughter's Circle of Hope ceremony, Sunday afternoon.
With strong winds and sometimes stormy-looking skies portending rain, people from New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts gathered at the site on Route 112 where Maura lost control of her black 1996 Saturn the night of Feb. 9 and then disappeared.
"I was overwhelmed," Murray said, clearing his voice. "That song ... I have never heard it before ... it was Maura. That song ... it tore me up."
Maura's friends from her high school days at Whitman-Hanson Regional High School -- they and Maura were referred to as the "gang of seven" -- wanted the song to be played at the Circle of Hope Ceremony.
Not only was the song played in Haverhill Sunday, it also was played during Circles of Hope ceremonies for Maura in Oklahoma, South Dakota, Ohio, North Carolina and Massachusetts.
The ceremonies were held so that people could gather together to not only let Maura know they are still hoping for her safe return, but also to wish her a happy 22nd birthday.
Each person at the Haverhill site was given one of 22 blue balloons before letting go with a birthday wish for Maura. Blue is Maura's favorite color. She turns 22 today.
As the strong winds scattered the balloons, Murray said they were like the people who care about his daughter. The balloons represent all those people searching for her.
He said no matter what has happened he wants Maura to come home so he can help her work things out.
"Happy birthday and we will see you soon," Murray said, letting go of a blue balloon.
He also thanked the 20 people who attended the Haverhill ceremony.
Not only was Murray overwhelmed by the song, he also was overwhelmed by the number of people who attended the Circle of Hope.
"I thought maybe I would be out here by myself," he said. "To get a nice turnout like this made me feel very grateful. It shows the inherent good in people.
"It shows everyone is concerned and wants to help, but they are frustrated."
Diane Brock, who owns the Wells River Motel in Vermont where Murray and other relatives have been staying, said she wanted to show her support for the family.
"I feel like I have become a part of their family," Brock said. "I feel their pain. I have three children Maura's age. I would be doing the same thing he has ... night and day."
Murray has been spending every weekend searching for Maura.
Barbara McDougall from Weymouth, Mass., said she also wanted to support Murray. "I also wanted to wish Maura a happy birthday." She also has been searching for Maura.
This weekend was the first chance for McDougall's husband, David, to help join in the search. He has a very personal reason why he wants to help Murray bring his daughter home. "My brother went missing in 1998," David McDougall said. "He was missing 17 days." Family members found him.
"So, I know how they feel," he said. "So, we will keep coming back until something changes."
The Rev. Lyn McIntosh led the Circle of Hope ceremony. McIntosh said it is hard to have a Circle of Hope when someone is missing.
However, she added, while everyone joined hands in a circle, "She is here in our hearts, our minds and our imaginations. "I pray you never give up," McIntosh said, turning to Murray. "Not a chance," he said.
Jennifer Henry, who is from Essex, Vt., made the trip to Haverhill with her children. She helped attach a laminated photo of Maura to the tree and also tied a blue ribbon and bow around it.
Her daughter, Angela, said she felt great seeing how many people turned out for the Circle of Hope. She was pleased with the show of support for Murray and his family.
Everyone attending the ceremony was especially touched when Patti Davidson from Weymouth, Mass., read a poem she had written for Maura, who is a distant relative.
Davidson urged God to keep Maura close in his arms and to bring her home so she is no longer alone. "I kept thinking about her," she said. "This came from my heart. I hope she hears it and I hope she comes home."
At the Whitman-Hanson Regional High School track in Hanson, Mass., about 100 people turned out in support of Maura and her family.
Beth Drewniak, who knows Maura very well, said it was a great turnout. Drewniak used to celebrate her daughter Liz's and Maura's birthdays together because they were within days of one another.
Of the "gang of seven," she said three were at the event.
"When I was growing up, if I had had a group of friends like this, I would have been thankful," Drewniak said. "They are so respectful of one another. They are absolutely heartbroken,"
The Circle of Hope was held at the high school's track, according to Drewniak, because Maura used to spend "weeks and weeks and months and months there."
Regarding the song, she said her daughter and Maura's other friends were adamant it was played during the ceremonies throughout the country.
Drewniak said the song reminded the friends of Maura. "It was just a reminder Maura is still out there and people love her and we will keep trying to bring her home," Liz Drewniak said, referring to the Circle of Hope gatherings. "All of us ... we have good days and we have bad days. We can sense when we need an extra phone call."
"It's been a bad semester," said Liz Drewniak, who is Maura's best friend. "It was emotional. We were in tears most of the time."
When asked what message she would like to send Maura, Drewniak said, "Maura, we want you home."
Sharon Rausch, who is the mother of Maura's boyfriend, said the ceremony in Marengo, Ohio, also was very emotional and was attended by about 20 people. "We joined hands and every person said something," Rausch said. "By the time everyone finished, tears were streaming down our faces."
Anyone with information about Murray should contact New Hampshire State Police at 603-271-3636.