‘It’s almost surreal, seeing her in that video,’ says Petito family friend and songwriter Deb Henson
A musician who wrote a moving tribute song to the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre featuring a 14-year-old Gabby Petito in the music video is planning to re-record the track to raise money for the Gabby Petito Foundation.
Deb Henson says she was inspired to write the song “Irreplaceable” after the “horrific” 2012 school shooting in Newton, Connecticut which claimed the lives of 20 children and six teachers.
“After Sandy Hook I was devastated like the rest of the world, it was just horrible. I woke up at 2am and picked up that guitar and wrote that song.”
Ms Henson, a Long Island native, contacted friend Maija Polsley, who is best friends with Ms Petito’s stepmother Tara Petito, and asked if she would be involved.
She said Tara Petito agreed to let Ms Petito and her two younger brothers Joey and Derek appear in the video.
“Gabby’s an artist, that’s why we had her drawing under the tree in the video. She was destined to do great things. Great things will happen from this.
“Maija calls Gabby her little flower child and I think that’s why it’s resonated. She’s just a good person.”
A family friend of the Petitos, Ms Henson cast Gabby and her two younger brothers in the video and shot it over two days around Long Island, New York, i 2013.
It shows Ms Petito drawing and holding a sign that reads “irreplaceable”.
Ms Henson says the song has “taken on a whole new meaning” since Ms Petito’s death.
“It’s almost surreal, seeing her in that video. Gabby was just this sweet kid. Her smile lit up the room. She was full of love.”
Ms Henson is now a talent manager based in Nashville and says one of her artists, Gabrielle “Gabby” Mooney, is going to re-record the song and all proceeds will go to the foundation established by the Petito family to help parents locate their missing children.
Ms Mooney is the younger sister of Shay Mooney, whose country pop band Dan + Shay won a Grammy Award in March for their collaboration with Justin Bieber, 10,000 Hours.
She said she had been torn watching the video again since Ms Petito went missing late last month.
“This family, this horrific thing that’s happened to them, it makes me so angry, so upset. When I watch the video, I get so emotional.”
She said the Petito family was “going through a horrific time right,” and she hoped that something good could come from the tragedy.
“My hearts and prayers are with them. If it brings awareness, that’s fantastic because that’s what it was intended to do.
“I think young women need to be taught at a young age, to have confidence in themselves, we need to instill that in women because a lot of it is insecurity, because these guys take advantage of that.”
Ms Henson said she was also in talks to hold a charity concert in New York for missing children.
“I feel so compelled to do something. This whole thing, it’s not about me, it’s for the cause and to keep the Gabby’s story going.”
The FBI are leading a nationwide manhunt for Brian Laundrie, who has been named a “person of interest” in Ms Petito’s disappearance.