Week #39: You Look So Happy

Like many others around the world, I’ve been following the story of Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old who was documenting her cross-country travels on social media when she disappeared. She left with her fiancé on July 2 to drive across the country in their van and she posted photos of their journey on Instagram and was working on a blog about her travels. Her fiancé returned home on Sept. 1 without her and her family reported her missing on Sept. 11 after not hearing from her.

Her first and only video posted on the YouTube page she set up to document her travels, Nomadic Statik, was posted Aug. 19 and titled “Beginning Our Van Life Journey.”

Tragically, her journey was cut short. The FBI confirmed on Sept. 21 that a body found inside a Wyoming national park was identified has Gabby Petito. Since then, her fiancé disappeared after a visit with his parents and a search is under way to find him.

More clues and updates on the story are released daily, but it doesn’t change the sad fact of Gabby’s death. Her story may appear to be over, but her family has opted to turn the tragedy into a way of helping others. At a memorial service, her family announced that they are planning to start a memorial in her name that would help families of other missing people.

Hundreds of thousands people are reported missing in the U.S. each year so why did this particular case draw so much attention? I think partially it’s because she documented her trip on social media so whether people were already following her journey or learned more about it after the news broke, as I did, people connected with her story. A young girl following her dream of traveling across the country in a van with someone she loved and sharing their journey with others.

This past week, word came out that when Gabby was 14, she appeared in a video of a song, “Irreplaceable,” commemorating victims of the Sandy Hook school massacre. The musician, Deb Henson, is planning on rerecording the song for Gabby Petito, with funds raised going to the Gabby Petito Fondation.

Gabby’s story inspired this week’s song.

This wasn’t your intention
When you set off on your grand adventure
With the love of your life in a travelin’ van
This wasn’t the plan, no, this wasn’t the plan

You look so happy in the photograph
Were tears hiding behind your laugh?
You left on a journey and never came back
Never came back

A cartwheel on the beach at sunset
The road less traveled was where you went
Chasing a dream, setting a scene
Filtering life through a tiny screen

You look so happy in the photographs
Were tears hiding behind your laugh?
A trip of a lifetime but you never came back
Never came back

The world watched with worry
Details got blurry
Your dream turning
Into a tragic nightmare

You look so happy in the photograph
Were tears hiding behind your laugh?
You left on a journey but never came back
Never came back.

I first wrote the lyrics and melody for this song then tried to write the music on piano. It still needs some work, but here’s a work tape of it.


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