New Hampshire has many roadside memorials.
One of the most well-known is the blue ribbon on the tree along Route 112 in Haverhill that marks the location where 21-year-old Maura Murray, a nursing student at the University of Massachusetts, crashed her car and minutes later disappeared without a trace.
Recently, the memorial was at risk of being removed by House Bill 1255, which seeks to prohibit roadside memorials within the state right-of-way of any primary or secondary highway.
If not removed voluntarily, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation would be authorized to remove and dispose of any memorial 90 days after the date of the event being memorialized.
The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Daniel Eaton, D-Stoddard, passed the New Hampshire House of Representatives on March 11, but was tabled on June 16 for the 2020 legislative session.
The Murray family is hoping HB 1255 won’t return and will be completely taken off the table.
“My family has no grave to visit or ashes to scatter,” Maura’s sister, Julie Murray, said Wednesday. “The blue ribbon is a living tribute to Maura’s memory and the only place my family and the amazing community of supporters have to remember her. HB 1255 and any Senate companion bill will destroy the only sacred place we have connecting us to Maura.”
The family has reached out to both the leadership of the New Hampshire Senate and the members of the Senate Transportation Committee expressing their strong opposition to the bill and to any companion bill, she said.
“We are standing by to mobilize thousands of supporters if the New Hampshire Senate refuses to take steps to kill the bill,” said Julie Murray. “This legislation would negatively impact our family and other families with missing and deceased loved ones across New Hampshire.”
In a letter sent Tuesday to New Hampshire Senate President Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, and the Senate leaders and transportation committee members, Julie Murray said the blue ribbon has become a symbol to honor and remember her sister.
“Until Maura is found, we have no grave to visit or ashes to scatter,” she wrote. “HB 1255 and any companion bill in the Senate will destroy the only sacred place our family and our dedicated community have to remember and honor Maura.”
New Hampshire statute already allows the DOT to remove roadside obstructions, but by passing a companion bill to HB 1255 “you will specifically and unnecessarily target and re-traumatize the families of the missing and deceased who will be devastated by your sweeping action to eliminate all roadside memorials without exception,” wrote Julie Murray.
On Wednesday evening, after sending her letter, Julie Murray said she received word from a staffer for state Sen. Bob Guida, R-Warren, whose district includes Haverhill, informing her the bill was tabled, and received communication from Soucy and state Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth.
Julie Murray said her concern was how HB 1255 passed the House and until recently was being considered by the Senate.
“I’ve asked the senators if I could meet with them to get their stance on it and to express my stance, not only for my family, but for other families who don’t have any other place to go to honor their loved ones,” she said. “I consider this a big win that it was tabled and it buys us some time to get the word out and make sure it doesn’t get passed in 2021.”