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After a mysterious Central Park bombing took his lower leg, Connor Golden’s music is finally drowning out the echoes of that violent explosion five years ago.
In an exclusive interview with the NBC New York I-Team, Golden said nearly all of his focus since the blast has been on relearning to walk and making a unique brand of futuristic funk music with an unusual keyboard called the LinnStrument.
“I took the LinnStrument to Central Park,” Golden said, harkening back to July 3, 2016, the day the blast claimed his left leg below the knee. Though his plan to play music in the park was interrupted, the keyboard ultimately played a pivotal role in Golden’s recovery.
“I remember being in the receiving room at the hospital and they said they might have to amputate and I said, ‘as long as I can still play.'”
While confined to a hospital bed, and during a grueling period of physical therapy, Golden says he practiced playing the LinnStrument religiously and it’s soothing electronic sound became his medicine.
“When I was learning how to walk, sometimes I didn’t feel comfortable getting up and walking but I always could play music,” Golden said. “What’s great about music is that it’s always there and even in the hardest times it’s always just waiting for you to play.”
Golden became so accomplished in playing the LinnStrument that Roger Linn, the man who invented the keyboard, said Golden is probably one of the best LinnStrument players alive.
“Connor is so great because, there was a tragic thing that happened to him, but he doesn’t seem to perceive any limitations,” Linn said. “The sky is the limit for this guy.”
This year, Golden released a collection of LinnStrument songs under the title “Flotela” and he’s currently promoting the work on Instagram.
In addition to producing his own music, last year Golden created an app for iPhones and iPads called SKYM, which allows musicians to bend sounds by dragging their fingers across a touchscreen.
“I think it’s like the greatest recovery comeback story that I’ve seen in my personal life,” said Ben Hon, a friend of Golden’s who performs music under the name bennytheghost.
Tina Johnson, another musician friend who performs under the name SHIMA, said the devastating explosion seems to have intensified Golden’s passion to produce music.
“He didn’t let the tragedy define him. He didn’t let it derail him. It was like not even an option,” she said. “I think music has allowed him to take control back of his life.”
Though the bombing case remains unsolved with a reward now up to $40,000, Golden says he has not spent an ounce of energy obsessing over who planted the explosive, a volatile compound called TAT-P, which has been used in several terrorist attacks in Europe.
“I was never looking for revenge, because I feel like in order to stop these patterns of violence we have to be the ones to stop it,” Golden said.
The NYPD has found no evidence the bombing was terror-related but investigators have not ruled that possibility out.
Since the blast, Golden’s family and friends have used funds from a GoFundMe campaign to buy paid social media posts – seeking leads in the case. So far the best clue remains a reassembled bakery bag from La Unica Bakery in Union City, New Jersey.
The explosive powder was hidden in that bag and Golden unknowingly stepped on it as he hopped off some rocks near the Central Park Zoo. Both the current and previous owners of La Unica Bakery have cooperated with detectives, but so far they’ve been unable to figure out how the bakery bag ended up near those rocks in Central Park.
On the day of the explosion, Golden was not only planning to play music on his LinnStrument. He also planned to slackline in the park, a form of tightrope walking between two trees.
Perhaps the most incredible feat of Golden’s recovery is that he somehow taught himself to balance on a slackline – using his new prosthetic. He now recommends slacklining for other amputees who are trying to find a new center of balance as they get used to walking on artificial limbs.
“When the moment came to step on the slackline with my prosthetic, I knew that – even though it felt very wrong – it would work,” Golden said. “The slackline, I think, was a physical therapy.”