Friday, June 16, 2006

"Human Kind"

In Gloucester, Massachusetts, high school students have written and are performing an original play based in part on the true story of NCADP board member Bud Welch, whose daughter, Julie, died in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City:

Death penalty foe flying in to see play
By Douglas A. Moser, Staff writer
Gloucester Daily Times

Bud Welch has gotten phone calls from students before, he said Wednesday, mostly college students researching term papers.

But the Oklahoma City man said he got his first call from actors inspired by his story in March, when members of the Gloucester High Drama Club contacted him about his daughter Julie. The call led Welsh to fly to Boston yesterday afternoon to visit Gloucester for an encore performance of the club's original production, "Human kind," tonight at 7 in the high school auditorium.

The students called him because their play about the compassion of a murder victim's family and their reconciliation with the murderer echoes Welch's experience. Julie Welch died in the domestic terror attack that destroyed a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Bud Welch had been a death penalty opponent but had a quick change of heart after the attack. "There were a couple months when I wanted the (bomber) fried, no question about that," he said in a telephone interview. But after the heat of the tragedy cooled, Welch said, he believed Timothy McVeigh, the man convicted of engineering and conducting the attack, should not be put to death.

"I was finally able to recognize that taking somebody out of a cage and killing them doesn't help the healing process," he said. "In fact, it retards it. It revictimizes the family members and creates a whole new set of victims" in the family of the condemned.

"Human kind," collectively written over the winter by members of the Drama Club, is about the family of a murder victim, the murderer on death row and the murderer's family. After the play was written, cast members researched the death penalty and came across the story of Welch, who campaigned against the death penalty during the trial, conviction and condemnation of McVeigh. The bomber was executed June 11, 2001, the first prisoner executed by the federal government since 1963.

Welch, who cofounded the Cambridge-based organization Murder Victims Families for Human Rights, which opposes the death penalty and counsels the families of victims, said he was honored to have inspired the Gloucester students. He said he had been invited to a show earlier in the year he could not make.

Members of the cast said they were thrilled to have Welch fly east to see the play. "We wanted him to come for so long, and we didn't think it was possible," said Willie Norris, a cast member. Director Christine de Lima, a Gloucester High alumna and veteran of the Drama Club, said she talked to Welch while the cast was performing the play in a state competition. "He contacted us the day after the preliminary round" March 4, she said. "We actually kept it a secret, which was really hard to do. When we sat them down and told them, some of them cried. It was an awesome moment."


Mimi Schaeffer said...
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Mimi Schaeffer said...

Perhaps you'd like to add "Not One More," the blog for Virginians for Alternative to the Death Penalty, to your blog roll.

I'm trying to write a few posts each week and any help in increasing traffic, of course, is appreciated!