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.