AUBURN, Ala. (WRBL) – Family, friends and Auburn Police joined together Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021 to celebrate a life lost.
19-year-old Aniah Blanchard was last seen two years ago, Oct. 23, 2019 at a Chevron gas station on South College Street in Auburn, Alabama. Her body would be found just over a month later in Macon County, Ala.
Saturday night, a vigil was held on Samford Lawn to remember Blanchard. One attendee whose children were babysat by Blanchard, sang two songs at the vigil before her family spoke.
Blanchard’s mother, Angela Harris, spoke to attendees, reflecting on the loss of her daughter.
“It still doesn’t seem real, it feels like a nightmare. What we’re trying to do is just keep living for her. Let her live through us, and then together with everybody’s support, which is amazing and we need it and I don’t even know what we would do without you, with all of your love and support that’s how we make it everyday. That’s how we live everyday so I wanna thank you guys for being here, thank you Auburn Police… I just want to say thank you and please never forget our baby.”
Blanchard’s stepfather, Walt “Big Ticket” Harris, also spoke to attendees of the vigil. He said it was the first time he had been back down to Auburn since Blanchard’s disappearance.
“Just to be frank, this is the first time I’ve been back really down here since it all took place. It’s hard, I remember everything she said… and I know how much she loved it here but as a father, I’m angry still. I’m trying to stay positive, to be quite honest. But I really, genuinely from the bottom of my heart want to thank you all for being here. That’s really all I can say at the moment, Auburn Police thank you for being here, everyone thank you for showing up tonight. She’s smiling right now, I know she is in heaven celebrating and that’s what she wants. She doesn’t want to see me tore up, she doesn’t want to see us tore up… I just want Aniah to know we love her, and Forever Aniah, this is her day.”
When remembering Oct. 23 as the last day she was seen alive, it brings hardships to the family.
“I’m going to get to the point where I won’t let these days, or this day especially tear me up as much as it does. It’s hard, and I don’t know how else to feel. But I’m going to get over it, our family is going to get through it because that’s what she would want, that’s what we are going to do…” Walt Harris said.
Angela Harris spoke on the events that took place earlier Saturday to help remind people of Aniah and help teach others to protect themselves.
“I know this was kind of small, but to me its big. To us it’s big, just to come together for just a few minutes to remember her. We had a great day here in Auburn at Max Fitness, Walt did an amazing job teaching, and Elijah teaching amazing self-defense classes and kind of a class on a weapons, safety and how to use weapons to protect yourself if you have a weapon so they did an amazing job along with Walt. I’m so proud of them for doing that, and I hope Auburn appreciates us for doing that and I hope we put some knowledge into the people that were there and save some lives.”
From 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. there was an educational event with various vendors and organizations at Max Fitness. Walt “Big Ticket” Harris and Elijah Blanchard taught two self defense classes, where people learned how to protect themselves with or without a weapon.
In closing the vigil, Angela Harris thanked all that attendees again, asking everyone to remember Aniah.
“Another thing to mention is that y’all are here and you love Aniah, so thank you like I said for just being here for these few minutes and moments to let us talk to you and just to think about Aniah and remember her, that means everything to us. Again, thank you guys for coming, and we are going to continue to do this. This is not going to stop, every year we have to… I’m not going to let anybody forget Aniah ever, I don’t think any of us are. But, I just want to say Forever Aniah.”
Last year, a memorial was put together in Homewood, Alabama but Angela shared her family felt they should have one this year in Auburn for Aniah.
About Aniah’s Disappearance
Auburn Police identified Ibraheem Yazeed, 29, of Montgomery, as a suspect in the case after surveillance video revealed he was at the store the same time as Blanchard. He has been charged with capital murder in the case, but has yet to go to trial.
At the time of Blanchard’s disappearance, Yazeed was out on bond at the time in an unrelated kidnapping and attempted murder case in Montgomery.
The bill would give prosecutors the ability to request a hearing in front of a judge and request no bond for defendants with a history in violent acts, charges, or convictions.
Aniah’s Law passed 99-0 in the House and signed June 25, 2021 by Gov. Kay Ivey.
Aniah’s Law will be on a statewide ballot to be voted on in 2022 as a constitutional amendment.