The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

February 4, 2013

Musicians honor shooting victims


DANVILLE — “It only took 26 minutes to take 26 lives — all so precious in God’s eyes.”

That chorus from “Sandy Hook Angels” touches on the sadness and tragedy of Dec. 14, 2012, when 20 children, four teachers and two administrators were killed at a school in Newtown, Conn.

Herb Wiese of Danville wrote the song to honor the victims, and Harlan “Punky” Ice of Georgetown composed the music, while Ila Hillard collaborated with them. Six local school children provided vocals.

The result is a single-song CD, which is being sold for $5. All proceeds will go to Sandy Hook Promise, a non-profit group created by members of the Newtown community.

Not only is the song touching the hearts of local listeners, but it’s being heard in Newtown, too, Wiese said. He sent 30 CDs to the non-profit group, and it was received well.

There’s a possibility, he said, that the local song could be incorporated into an album of songs honoring the victims.

Wiese also took copies of the song to local radio stations, including Neuhoff Media (WDAN/WDNL/WRHK) in Danville, WHPO in Hoopeston and WSKL (KOOL) and WKZS (KISS) in Covington, Ind.

Larry Weatherford, owner of the Covington stations, said, “We’ve had a really good response to the song because it relates to all of us, like the Alan Jackson song that came out after 9/11, ‘Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?’”

He noted that Wiese and Ice have been involved in music since the early days of rock and roll, and have done a lot of local benefits over the years.

“Reaching out to help the Sandy Hook victims and to honor them with a song is a way of showing that we’re all neighbors, no matter how many miles apart we may be,” Weatherford said.

He added, “It’s hard to write a song about a tragic event like this without veering off into making a political statement, but they crafted the lyrics carefully to avoid doing that. It just focuses on the loss we all feel as the result of an act of violence like this, especially involving innocent children.”

Ice agreed the words are appropriate and thoughtful, adding, “We wouldn’t want to add hurt to the hurt they’ve had.”

One sleepless night, Wiese wrote the words about a week after the shootings. After hearing the words, Ice tried to write a melody, but it just wouldn’t come. Then, suddenly, it all came together within an hour.

Wiese, Ice and Hillard fine-tuned the words and the melody.

They decided to use children for some of the vocals: Delanie Robinson and Drew Robinson, daughters of Tom and Suzi Robinson; Samantha Wiese, daughter of Greg and Michelle Wiese; Timberlyn Hess, daughter of Toni Hess and Demarco Clark; Chloe Hempel, daughter of Dave and Kelly Williams; and Allie Thurston, daughter of John and Shannon Thurston.

The girls sing “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” while Wiese reads off the first names of all 26 victims.

The result is touching, and personalizes the tragedy. When the recording session was done, the children’s mothers left the studio in tears, Ice said.

He also said he was impressed with the youngsters.

“The kids did it in one take,” he said. “They went through it like they were professionals.”

The song, recorded at SCP Studio in Hillery, also features Steve Cruse on guitar, John Coons on bass, Mel Hoaks on drums, and Ice on keyboard. Ice and Cruse provided harmony vocals.

Wiese made copies of the CD, all at his own expense, and has taken several to local businesses, including Chart Records, Bait & Bite Café and Hair-It-Is.


CDs of “Sandy Hook Angels” are available for $5 at Hair-It-Is, 1012 N. Vermilion St.; Chart Records, 131 N. Vermilion St.; and Henk’s Bait & Bite Café, Hillery.

All proceeds go to Sandy Hook Promise; visit its website, http://, to learn more about thenon-profit organization.