By Ingrid Schnader
After a month of searching for missing teen Aniah Blanchard, residents of Homewood and the surrounding communities were devastated to hear that Blanchard’s body had been found in Shorter on Nov. 25.
“Right now, nothing makes sense and I’m so lost,” Walt Harris, Blanchard’s stepfather, wrote in a Nov. 28 Instagram post. “I just want you back. I hope I made you proud. … My lil mighty mighty tiger is a angel now. I love you baby girl forever and ever!”
Blue bows had been hung throughout the Over the Mountain communities in support of the search for Blanchard and her safe return home. Trinity United Methodist Church invited community members to write a prayer or message on their bows to be hung on a cross in front of the church.
Jane Lamb – whose son, Lucas Lamb, graduated from Homewood High School with Blanchard – said this tragedy makes her hold on to her own children tighter. Jane and Lucas were at Trinity on Nov. 26 to hang their bows onto the cross.
“You want to protect your children, and you tell them all the time to be safe and to be careful,” she said. “It’s just the worst nightmare coming true for another family. It’s heartbreaking.”
It will be weird to see an end to the blue bows across the community now that the search is over, she said.
“I’m just so thankful that we’ve been able to see the bond and love of this community,” she said. “I think it’s made us all better people. If you put aside your differences and whether you know someone or not or whether you’re the same or different or whatever you believe. For those 30 days, that was our one focus.”
Later that night, Angela Harris spoke at a vigil held for Blanchard, who was her daughter. The vigil was streamed live to Facebook by WBRC.
“I always told Aniah, her whole life, don’t ever go anywhere alone,” Angela Harris said at the vigil. “Don’t go anywhere by yourself, not even to get gas. … Aniah was only going to the store to buy a bag of potato chips. And if you know Aniah, you know how much she loved to eat. And that’s all she was doing, and she ran into some evil.”
Everyone – including men and boys – needs to be aware of their surroundings when getting in and out of their cars, Angela Harris said.
“You have got to pay attention,” she said. “This is coming from Aniah, OK? I have to say this for her to y’all because she would not want this to happen to anybody else.”
Angela Harris posted a save the date on Instagram for an event honoring the life of Blanchard to be held Dec. 21. The post said to wear baby blue and black to the event and that more details are to come.