Derrill Bodley, a founding member of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, was killed in a motorcycle accident on his 60th birthday, September 21, 2005. We remember Derrill’s boundless energy, his impish humor and charm, and his magnificent music.
On September 11th, he lost his daughter, Deora, on Flight 93. Within days of that loss, Derrill–a professor of music and educational technology at Sacramento City College, University of the Pacific–was telling the world that we had to find a way to live together in peace.
To say that he was a tireless advocate for his daughter’s memory and for the cause of peace is an understatement. Derrill joined a Global Exchange delegation to Afghanistan in January of 2002, meeting families of those killed as a result of the US bombing campaign. He fondly recalled jamming with Afghan musicians, and was surrounded by laughing kids as he taught them “This Old Man” on a portable keyboard. He retraced his Afghanistan route in January of 2004, visiting those he had met two years earlier and reporting that little progress had been made in reconstructing their homes and their lives.
Derrill marched with us many times in many climates. He played his original song, “Each to Give,” in Washington, DC, at the first major rally attended by the newly-formed Peaceful Tomorrows on April 20, 2002. He braved the freezing cold of New York City on February 15, 2003, where he represented Peaceful Tomorrows as the opening speaker at the massive rally against the impending Iraq war. In recent days, Derrill expressed his desire to speak at the UFPJ rally in Washington if the opportunity arose, and asked if there would be room at the Peaceful Tomorrows table for him to set up and play his keyboard–which, he remarked, was from Pakistan.
Derrill’s energy knew no bounds. When Peaceful Tomorrows allied itself with the American Friends Service Committee’s “Eyes Wide Open” exhibit of military boots, organizing a display of thousands of civilian shoes representing Iraqi casualties, he offered the services of “Big Bertha,” his well-used bread truck, to transport the shoes, and helped to mount the exhibit in San Francisco and Sacramento, California. The display would not have been possible without him. Derrill also spoke in Japan on many occasions, most recently participating in the “Stonewalk” from Nagasaki to Hiroshima to honor “the unknown civilians killed in war” this past summer.
He also helped to pull the memorial stone from Boston to New York in the summer of 2004.
Most of all, we will remember Derrill’s music. Shortly after his daughter’s death, he wrote “Steps to Peace,” which he said came to him as a message from her that everything would be all right. He handed a copy of the song to President Bush at a White House reception for families of those killed on Flight 93, and commandeered a piano to play the song live for others standing in line. It was “Steps to Peace” which accompanied our first Peaceful Tomorrows video of the same name, and it is “Steps to Peace” which is featured on our newest DVD, “Beyond Retribution.” On 9/11/05, Derrill appeared in a Flight 93 documentary on the Discovery Channel, and played the song for the cameras.
Although it was a tragedy that brought us together, we’re grateful for the time we got to spend with Derrill, We will honor him, as he honored Deora, by working to create a better world, and we will hold him forever in our hearts.