February marked the 16 anniversary of one of the most widely known missing person cases.
Commemorating then 21-year-old Maura Murray, a star student and athlete from the University of Massachusetts, is a big, blue ribbon near route 112 in New Hampshire, the site at which she disappeared.
But today, the memorial may be subject to removal.
“That day was just complete chaos,” recalled Julie Murray, Maura’s older sister.
Maura’s car was found crashed and abandoned Monday evening on February 9, 2004. Computer searches indicate Maura was considering staying overnight in the Burlington or Stowe, Vermont but didn’t book a hotel room or rental. It’s still unclear where she was heading that night.
Julie said her family wasn’t informed of her sister’s disappearance until the next day. By Wednesday, her father drove to New Hampshire to begin the search for his sweet, kind-hearted daughter.
Almost two decades later, the family is still in search for answers.
“We don’t give up, that’s obvious. we’ve been doing this for 16 years and so we’re not just going let the ribbon disappear and Maura’s memory disappear,” said Julie.
The site at which Maura went missing is a private wooded area. Recently, the landowners expressed plans to build a cattle ranch. Meaning, within a year, they want to clear the trees, putting Maura’s memorial in jeopardy.
“I asked them, ‘Could you spare the tree with the ribbon?’ and they said no. So then I offered to buy the land, and they said no. And then I offered to lease the land, and they said no,” said Julie.
But Maura Murry’s father assures the memorial is not going anywhere.
“The ribbon is still up, and there’s going to be a ribbon up there somewhere as long as I’m around,” said Fred Murray, Maura’s father.
Just months ago, the Murray family was presented with another challenge. The state of New Hampshire passed Bill 1255, which allows the removal of all roadside memorials. While the bill was tabled until 2021, Julie says it’s only a temporary win.
In response, Julie has submitted petitions and spoken with senators to make sure her sister’s memorial and others in New Hampshire are preserved.
“Most of them don’t have ashes to spread or a grave to visit so that blue ribbon means everything to my family and I,” said Julie.
In response, the Murray family launched the #BlueRibbonCampaign in order to get a historical marker. Julie says this would allow for something more permanent than a ribbon and, potentially, a site people can visit to learn about Maura’s story.
According to the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources, one of many requirements needed to erect a historical marker is a petition signed by 20 signatures by at least 20 New Hampshire citizens. But the Murray family isn’t worried about the support.
Julie Murray extended her efforts online, creating an additional petition. In just two weeks, 2,000 people from all 50 states and 18 countries signed in support of a marker.
“…that gives me chills to know that Maura’s case is global and people care,” said Julie.
Maura’s sister and father told me the community has helped them cope.
“They’re the backbone of our whole effort…when we have searches up there we have come from all over the country,” said Mr. Murray.
We’re just going to fight for what we can do,” said Julie.