Noble Pond

This story took some work to get put together.  I heard about it while checking in with Jack Haley and knew it was too good to pass up, no matter how hard it would be to pull together.

If you ever heard Austin Haley’s story, you’ll never forget.  The five-year-old boy was fishing with his grandfather in a backyard pond in Noble, Oklahoma in August 2007.  Police were called to a neighbor’s house because a snake was trapped in a birdhouse.  The officers decided to shoot the snake.  One officer fired two shots.  The bullets missed the snake, but hit and killed Austin Haley.  This was quite possibly the most tragic story I have ever or ever hope to hear again.  The story made headlines in Oklahoma and around the country.

Enter Chris Rogerson.  He’s a composing student at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.  In August 2007, Chris was watching the news and heard about Austin’s death.  He was so moved that he sat down at his piano and just played.  What came next was, in my opinion, a masterpiece.  He wrote the music for “Noble Pond,” a piano solo.  Just recently he decided to orchestrate the piece to be performed by his school’s orchestra.

Chris found an address for Jack and Renee Haley and mailed them a simple note explaining who he was and what he had written in Austin’s honor.  Jack Haley told me when he opened the card from Pennsylvania he was stunned.  He couldn’t move.  He called for his wife to come read the note.  They both knew they had to make the trip to Philadelphia to hear the world premiere of the orchestra version of “Noble Pond.”

After finally tracking down Chris I was able to get the Fox affiliate in Philadelphia to hook up with Chris and shoot an interview for me.  I am only sad the economy and our budget cutbacks prevented me from making the trip to Philly myself.  I was amazed when I was finally able to see Chris perform the piano solo he wrote.  I was moved by the music and also by the Philadelphia photographer’s shots.  It was truly inspiring.  In fact after seeing how well the story was shot, I felt an even bigger pressure to do this story justice.  I wanted to live up to the amazing video I had in my hands.

I am hopeful Jack and Renee enjoy the story and the performance.  I am hopeful Chris is able to get some publicity for his work.  I love listening and performing music, however composing was never one of  my strong suits.  It’s always inspiring to me to see someone write and play music, especially something with that much emotion.

Austin’s story continues to inspire.  Jack gave me an article written in a religious magazine.  It shared the story of Austin’s faith in God and how he shared his beliefs with everyone he met.  Austin’s story is also being used in a new training video for police about when to use deadly force.

What happened at a pond in Noble has inspired and changed the lives of countless people.  Count me as one of them.

Austin Haley


One Reply to “Noble Pond”

  1. Dear Phil,

    This story should change lives. It is one of the most tragic, senseless, and needless disasters I’ve ever heard about. I live in the area where this happened and I have followed the story since it transpired. I even used to work just about two miles away from the site of the shooting. This killing should never have occurred. The snake pictured in a local paper as the one shot at was a totally harmless rat snake. It could have been safely removed by hand. I’ve handled this species since I was in middle school and I couldn’t tell you how many times I have been bitten by them. It doesn’t require a bandage or even an alcohol swab. You wouldn’t even say, ouch, it’s that benign, even from large specimens. Other than total ignorance I can imagine no reason that the officer even unholstered his gun. The snake should not have been shot. Even if it had been a dangerous species it should not have been shot. An animal expert should have been called to the scene. Alternatives are that the snake might leave and go its way back into its native habitat. The fact that a boy died due to this ignorance is horrendous. If no one had been hurt during this act it would still be egregiously heinous due to the ignorance and inability to act properly with an animal that was involved. This demonstrates how poorly trained our police officers are and how important it is to have someone with capable decision making skills on the job. In Oklahoma the main requirements for becoming a police officer have always been having big muscles and the willingness to follow any order. Now we see that big brains might be what are required to keep the public safe. Thank you so much for not letting this be forgotten. Oklahomans should remember this forever.

    Thank you,

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