Foreword by Angela Haley-Harris:
"There are no words. There are not enough words to thank all the people who supported us. They supported us from the very beginning, and they are supporting us now. People will never know how much that means to us."
As we all try to do our best to deal with the Coronavirus and manage our day to day lives, we have all been reflective. Thinking about the current state of our lives. Thinking of the things and people we miss. Thinking of things we would have done differently. Maybe thinking of conversations that we should or shouldn’t have had, and so on and so forth. Whatever the themes of our daily thoughts, we probably replayed them often. For some, this time to think has been useful and productive; for others, not so much. For others, it is more time to spend with memories that they try to stay one step ahead of.
Angela Harris and her family can relate. Harris and her family had the disastrous life changing experience of suddenly losing her child, Aniah Blanchard, to kidnapping and eventually murder.
For most people, losing a child in the barbaric way that Harris did would almost always result in them fading into anonymity to cope, especially in the days immediately following. But Harris is not like most people. Since Aniah’s death, Harris has been on a mission; no seriously, she has been on a mission. Her current focus is continuing to be a voice for missing children and actively posting on social media, continuing to work with law and policy makers to prevent this from happening again, and pursuing non-profit and other business endeavors on behalf of Aniah.
From the outside looking in, I was curious as to what her motivation was. Where she was drawing her strength from in such a dark time.
In her own words, Angela Haley-Harris:
"Immediately, from the very beginning I knew something was very wrong. There are certain people in your lives who live very scheduled lives. Aniah was one of them. I didn’t know exactly what had happened, but I knew something wasn’t right. She had dropped her brother Elijah off and was headed back to school (Southern Union State Community College.) When Elijah told me he couldn’t get in touch with her, that’s when everything got put into motion. We were just with her the day before. We are a very close family. At that point, me and Walt (Harris) then drove to Auburn to fill out a police report, to report her missing.
From the very minute we found out she was missing, it was find Aniah by any means necessary. I remember every single morning I popped out of bed thinking, ok, what can I do to find her that I didn’t do yesterday. It was literally the only thing that was on my mind. And then there was the rollercoaster with all of the fake reports that came in."
Q: Fake reports?
"Yes, fake reports. We’d get so many tips of people saying they saw her here, or saw her there, or they saw her walking with some man, and of course it couldn’t be substantiated, which was extremely frustrating. People were saying some incredibly nasty things. Even suggesting that Walt had something to do with it. I really had to block that out and remain hopeful. Even when we found out that it was likely she was kidnapped, I was still very hopeful that she would be found safe. She was a fighter. I never stopped having hope. Not for a second."
Q: You haven’t slowed down a bit since Aniah’s death. What keeps you going?
"Her being a fighter is what keeps me going. It’s her. It’s what she’d want me to do. She was truly my rock. She was my girl. Always there to encourage me. Always there to look on the bright side. She was a smaller version of me. I can’t imagine not continuing to fight for her. I can’t imagine letting her down. And not continuing to live my life would be letting her down. I want to go to heaven one day and be the best mother to my children, and I can’t do that if I allow my heart to be filled with hate. My life will never be the same again without her. She’s never going to get to have the grandbabies that I wanted her to have. I won’t be able to see her get married and be a teacher and be a softball coach. I lost my son to a car accident when he was three years old and that was very difficult, and to lose Aniah; it’s another nightmare. It’s still very tough on me and Walt. I had a breakdown a few days ago and didn’t want to get out of the car and a friend had to come get me. Walt still has trouble sleeping, but we are doing the best we can.
If I could offer some advice to people, it would be to always stay on point and to always, always be aware. It won’t be your mace that saves you. It won’t be your knife that saves you. It probably won’t even be your gun that saves you. What will save you is you being aware of your surroundings at all times. Don’t take a chance on your life. We always think that it can’t happen to us but that is a lie. One of the biggest lies ever told.
I will never stop fighting for you, Aniah."
As of March 11, Aniah's Law, a bill that would give judges more discretion to deny bail to someone charged with some of the most serious crimes like murder and kidnapping, has passed an Alabama senate committee. It now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
The man charged with Blanchard’s murder, Ibraheem Yazeed, was out on bail after being charged with several violent felonies.