Paramedic to donate proceeds from song about 1987 Metro Detroit plane crash

Andy Graves wrote and released the song to help him cope with the trauma of responding to the crash that killed 156 people


Samuel Dodge
MLive.com, Walker, Mich.

DAVISON, Mich. — Two weeks ago, Andy Graves and Mindi Odom hit a milestone in a burgeoning music career, publishing their first-ever song for sale on streaming services.

Graves was a Huron Valley Ambulance paramedic on duty during the Northwest flight 255 crash in 1987. He took more than 25 years to process the trauma, eventually connecting with the family members of the 154 victims he couldn’t assist that night.

Flowers and pictures are shown at a memorial for the victims of the 1987 Northwest Airlines Flight 255 crash near Detroit Metropolitan Airport. The MD-80 aircraft crashed in the Detroit suburb of Romulus, killing all 154 people aboard except for a 4-year-old girl. Two people also died on the ground.
Flowers and pictures are shown at a memorial for the victims of the 1987 Northwest Airlines Flight 255 crash near Detroit Metropolitan Airport. The MD-80 aircraft crashed in the Detroit suburb of Romulus, killing all 154 people aboard except for a 4-year-old girl. Two people also died on the ground. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

He funneled his emotions into songwriting, recruiting Odom to help voice the single “August Rain" as part of their musical group Pivotal Awakening.

The song, available for purchase on SpotifyApple Music and CD Baby, might have been an opportunity for the pair to bask in their newfound musical success. Graves and Odom are instead channeling the momentum into a good cause.

Graves announced that most of the proceeds made from “August Rain” will go to the Salvation Army’s Eastern Division in Southfield. He also set up a direct donation link to the organization’s website.

Graves, an Ann Arbor native who’s now an EMS dispatcher in Pontiac, chose the Salvation Army after discussions with Tony Zanger, who lost younger brother Michael and his fiance Hollins Langton in the 1987 crash.

“That organization shows up every Aug. 16 for our memorial vigil,” Zanger said. “They serve refreshments, help us clean the site and never ask for a dime.”

Graves, who’s also a retired Flint Fire Department battalion chief, said that his interactions with Zanger and the victims’ families helped pull him out of a nearly three-decade “mental health journey.”

“My only memory of the incident was the crash,” he said. “And then on the 20th anniversary, I went to the memorial. That turned out to be the best thing I ever did for my mental health, because I started having positive experiences related to the crash through meeting and talking with family members and other first responders."

When Graves reached out to Odom to perform “August Rain,” she connected with the lyrics about the crash’s lone survivor, Cecelia Cichan.

“I was 4, her age, when the accident happened,” Odom said. “The Miracle of One (lyric) in the song can signify...how much of a miracle she was and how she offered a glimmer of hope in such a horrible tragedy.”

Zanger called Graves “a genuine guy” and has expressed appreciation to him and Odom for helping turn the tragedy into something positive.

“Like other responders, he came little by little," Zanger said. "They felt sorry they couldn’t do more... but they belong with us.”

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©2020 MLive.com, Walker, Mich.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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