Monday, November 17, 2008

Peace4 Donna Parent, Let's Bring Brandy Hanna Home

Much admiration to Brian Hicks for this article, you give journalism a heart...and Peace4's Monday4 the Missing someone to look up to...

Another sad birthday
The Post and Courier
Sunday, November 16, 2008

Previous Stories
Vigil marks 3rd anniversary of woman's disappearance, published 05/20/08

Missing woman hasn't been forgotten; Center for Missing Persons keeps Brandy Hanna in spotlight, published 06/19/07

Today is Brandy Hanna's birthday.

There won't be a party, or a fancy dinner, no one to joke about calling the fire department to put out the 36 candles on her cake.

No, this day will pass like the past 1,270 — with her mother, Donna Parent, waiting for the phone to ring.

You see, Brandy is missing.

A lot of people already know the story. On Friday, May 20, 2005, Brandy worked her shift at Alex's Restaurant on Dorchester Road, got a ride to her apartment and, later that evening, talked to her mother on the phone. She had big plans for the weekend — shopping Friday night, the beach Saturday, breakfast with her mother and brother Sunday.

None of that ever happened.

That night, Brandy walked out of her apartment, leaving her money, her clothes, her entire life, behind. No one has seen her since.

For the last three-and-a-half years, there have been candlelight vigils for Brandy on every birthday, every anniversary of her disappearance. They are sad affairs of prayer, tears, candles and balloon releases. But they serve a purpose: they ensure no one forgets Brandy.

This year, her mother instead chose to drive to Conway for another family's vigil. Six years ago, Alice Donovan was abducted from a Wal-Mart parking lot and killed. Her killers, one of whom is on death row, either can't or won't tell where they left her.

Donna thought it was important to honor Brandy by supporting Alice's family.

"I feel like it is the right thing to do," she said Friday. "I know what that family is going through."

Since Brandy's disappearance, Donna has become active in missing person advocacy. She does it for the right reason, to help. When the newspaper dispatches a photographer for a new picture of her, she asks that we just run a photo of her daughter instead. She wants no publicity, no fame, no attention. She just wants Brandy back or to at least know what happened.

Not knowing is perhaps the hardest part.

Donna wakes up every morning and goes to sleep every night thinking about Brandy. She has had to go through something no parent ever should — she has seen her daughter become a face on a billboard, a story on missing persons Web sites. She endures it as part of her fight to make sure that no one forgets.

This is something you wouldn't wish on anyone, especially not a kind-hearted, generous soul like Donna. It's a miracle she holds up as well as she does, and has even gotten strong enough to allow the occasional joke to slip out — she laughs that the idea of Brandy being 36 makes her feel old.

Donna has added two new grandchildren to the family in the last couple of years, and they provide her a lot of joy. But even playing with them reminds her how much Brandy would enjoy her new nephew.

This is never far from her mind. Every time another body is found, every time the phone rings, she feels a cold chill. That has become her life. A few months ago, police thought they had found her in Calhoun County. It wasn't Brandy, just another false alarm, but it brought on another period of unbearable waiting for Donna.

Today will be no different, vigil or not, birthday party or not. But by now Donna knows that there are people out there who will not forget, who will not give up until she has found her daughter. Since it's her birthday, maybe some of them will even light a candle for Brandy.

Please join us at Peace4 the Missing
Missing Persons Awareness and Support Network

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