Somber Day: Deer Island Staff Remembers 'Baby Doe'

When the body of a young girl washed ashore near a Boston treatment plant, employees were shocked. Here’s how they tenderly reacted.
Somber Day: Deer Island Staff Remembers 'Baby Doe'
Visitors to the Deer Island memorial to Bella Bond (Baby Doe) have brought everything from stuffed animals to Hello Kitty couches.

About 1,150 employees work for the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority in Boston. Despite the organization’s size, it is very much like a tight-knit family, says Ria Convery, MWRA’s communications director. So on June 25, when a tragedy unfolded right outside the gates of its centerpiece, the Deer Island Sewage Treatment Plant, it didn’t take long for the MWRA family to come together. On that day, a woman walking her dog discovered the body of a young girl in a plastic garbage bag along the shoreline of Deer Island, a peninsula that juts into Boston Harbor. No immediate identification could be made.

“There are a lot of us who have been here for a very long time, and the Deer Island plant is the second largest wastewater treatment plant in the country,” Convery says. “It’s the heart and soul of the organization and the thing we’re most proud of in a lot of ways.

“So for this to have occurred right in our front yard, it really struck a lot of people on a personal level. Some because they’re parents. Some because they’re grandparents. Everybody had a connection in some way to this poor child who was found on the shore,” she continues. “We decided we had to do something. We couldn’t let her be forgotten like she was thrown away. We needed to do something to at least acknowledge she was alive.”

Ideas for a memorial quickly came together and fundraising began. The treatment plant covers about two-thirds of Deer Island with parkland making up the remainder. Memorial benches already line the walking paths around the peninsula, so Convery says the first idea proposed was a bench.

“It seemed logical, and we thought, ‘Why not do a small child’s bench?’ because it would be different than everything else. Then it just sort of grew from there,” she says.

A cherry tree was selected to go alongside the bench, and then someone suggested adding a bronze statue of a fawn. “Baby Doe” was the name given to the child while officials worked to identify her. A stone with a plaque containing some prose was also added: “For reasons we may never know, an angel came to our shores, causing us to shed a collective tear. May she rest in peace and never be forgotten.”

The staff raised more than $3,000, enough to cover the memorial as well as extra for burial costs if the child remained unidentified. Convery says most of the funds came from MWRA employees, with a few outside donations. On Sept. 18, with the tree planted, the bench installed and the other memorial pieces in place, about 50 MWRA employees gathered for a short ceremony that included a few thoughts and prayers from the MWRA executive director and others, followed by a moment of silence. Sept. 18 also happened to be the day officials released the name of the child, 2-year-old Bella Bond, and made two arrests in connection with her death.

“It was somber,” says Convery. “It would have been that way anyway, but everybody had just heard what really happened to the child, so it added another dimension to it.”

Since then, the memorial has become a destination for others to pay their respects to Bella.

“People have brought stuffed animals, toys, tricycles, Hello Kitty couches. You name it, they’ve brought it,” Convery says.

The Deer Island plant staff has been collecting the items and will donate them to a charity.

Over the years, MWRA employees have responded similarly to other catastrophes. Convery says the first major fundraising effort she can recall was in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The agency has also raised funds to assist victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Or, if one of their own suffers health problems, MWRA employees are again ready to help out with unexpected medical bills. The memorial for Bella Bond is consistent with how the agency’s employees show compassion.

“We have a really great group of people,” Convery says. “They’re very generous and behave much like a family. They really pull together for things like this.”


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