Tuesday, August 23, 2005

8/23/05 “I Love You, Mom…See You Later”

Those were the words that Donna Parent heard when she last saw her 32 year-old daughter, Brandy Hanna, on May 20, 2005.

How long is later? Is it an hour? Is it a day? Is it a week?

For Donna, it’s been 3 months and 3 days. It must not be “later” yet, because Brandy is still not home, and nor has anyone heard from her.

Donna and Brandy have a close relationship, further cemented by the fact that they work together at the same restaurant. This heartbroken mom tells us in her own words of the darkest day of her life: “The day started out normally. Brandy called me several times wanting to know what time I would be at the restaurant where we work. She was at work, but always waited to see me before she went home for the day. When I arrived, she was in a great mood so full of life, cutting up with the customers as usual.

When Brandy smiled, it would melt my heart at how beautiful my baby girl was. This day was like all others. We chatted, and I set up her voice mail on her new phone. When she was ready to go home, she kissed me said, “I love you mom…see you later”, and out the door she went. Little did I know that would be the last time I would see my little girl. I talked to her several times on the phone after she got home, and then I became busy in the restaurant. Brandy said she was going to watch some TV. I tried to call her later that evening, only to get her voice mail.

I had a really bad feeling that I couldn’t shake that something was seriously wrong. I went home when I got off work, and told my husband. He told me that I worried too much and that she was a grown woman and was fine. I tried to call her all weekend as she was off on weekends. She had told me she had plans with her boyfriend, so I kept telling myself she was with him. I went to her apartment on Sunday, the 22nd, but she was not home.

Brandy was scheduled to work Monday, the 23rd. I woke up at 7:18am. I looked at the clock, and thought to myself; “Okay, work has not called me, so she’s there.” No sooner had I thought this, then the phone rang and my nightmare began. Brandy was not at work.

I called the police that Monday to report my 32 year old daughter as missing. The officer would not take a report until I had called the jails & hospitals. Then my nightmare became worse as I tried to convince the police that she had not just ran off, or was out doing drugs. How does a mother explain to a person that does not know their child that something bad has happened, especially when the only thing you have to go on is what you’re feeling in your heart, and your mother’s instinct?”

The nightmare had begun for Donna and her family, in both senses of the word. “I work until I come home and I am so exhausted. I can go to sleep, but then the dreams start. I cannot be alone for any amount of time. When I am alone my mind goes to thoughts I cannot bear to think about. I feel someone grabbed her & hurt her. My greatest fear is I will never see her sweet face again. I deal with this by working a lot & doing anything to keep my mind from going there which is almost impossible.

I get up every morning hoping today will be the day I hear something, anything, about my daughter .It has now been 3 months. I pray to God every day to give me the strength to make it through another day. I think about my daughter every second of every day, always wondering if there was something I could have done to prevent this. There’s always the “what ifs”. This is something you never expect to happen to your family. The not knowing is the worst feeling you could imagine. You have no closure, or any way to have any peace in your heart. It just breaks more every day. As my niece wrote: “Cherish every day…. you don’t know what tomorrow may bring”.

I do not feel like I have a life. I just go thru the motions the best that I can until I know where my daughter is. My life is at a standstill and my focus is on finding Brandy. My husband is used to being able to fix things for me, and this is something he can’t fix. Brandy’s brothers miss her and worry about me constantly. I worry a lot more about where they are and if they’re safe.”

Donna didn’t remain at a standstill for long. She picked herself up, dusted herself off, and decided to fight for Brandy. Despite media rejection and attitudes about missing adults, she was now prepared to find the help she needed. She started locally with flyers: “We have made flyers and they are posted all over town. They are in our car windows. Every time I get in my truck, I see Brandy’s face. Several of our customers have her posted in their car windows, too. I will do what ever it takes to keep her face in the public’s eye. The flyers are posted in many businesses in town, including the restaurant where we work. We have several stores that are run by this company and all of the stores post her picture.”

The media now faced Donna’s fighting spirit: “I wrote a letter to the editor of our local paper wanting to know why Brandy was not important enough for them to run a story on, but yet they could cover the girl in Aruba so much, even though she was not in this county. This prompted them to run a very nice story on Brandy on the front page .If I can keep Brandy’s face in the public eye it gives me hope someone may have seen something & come forward .I feel God created us all equal, and all missing persons should be given all the publicity they can. If this were done, more of these cases may be solved. I feel the resources need to be spread out. My daughter is just as important as anyone.”

Amen to that, Donna. Why indeed are so many hours and countless dollars spent on just one person? Where are the big name search teams and the night after night coverage on the news for Brandy? Is she loved any less? Does Donna not deserve a chance to find her daughter? Think about that.

Next, Donna moved to doing Internet research. She found the Center for Missing Adults, and then she found Project Jason. After my initial conversation with Donna, I put out an urgent notice for assistance for Brandy to my peers and good friends in the “business”.

Because of her locale, I urged Donna to pick up the phone, and call Monica Caison, of the CUE Center in Wilmington, NC. Among other things, Monica’s organization is experts on search and rescue. (SAR) Now Donna had some momentum going. She had her search “angels”: “Monica Caison came to town on August 8th. I was so excited, and yet so scared at the same time. She came with 4 other volunteers and 6 K-9 dogs. This group of people came in and worked so hard assisting the police in the search. The whole group was so kind and respectful of my situation. They went out every day, even though the temperature was 100 degrees and higher. Monica called a press conference on Tuesday and all 3 local stations were there. Two of the stations had already run brief stories after my sister and I emailed and begged for their help. I feel Monica and her group were sent to me by God. They are truly God’s angels. I will always be grateful for the help they gave.”

Empowered by the help given her, Donna struck a cord with the local law enforcement. “We as a family were worried about the case being put back on the back burner. When Monica left, my brother-in-law proceeded to tell the detective that if he thought I was going to back off, he’d better think again. There is no way I will ever stop looking for my daughter. The Detective informed him he had come to know me, and he knew I would never give up. I will keep charging like a bulldog. I am a mother who would do any thing it takes to find my child.”

And now, Donna will get to see her daughter’s face for the very first time on national TV. Brandy’s photo and information will be shown on the Larry King Live Show on Tuesday night at 9pm EST. Monica Caison is a guest on the show, and she will show several other cases which do not get national recognition.

Donna wants us to think about this: “We have to make people aware of the hurdles we have to cross to get people to pay attention to our missing children. Even though they are adults, they are still our children.

Look into your children’s eyes, hug your children, or just to sit & talk with them. Think about how you would feel if you never had the chance to do these simple things we all take for granted, until something like this happens .Think about the possibility of never knowing what happened to your child and having to live with that thought every day of your life, always wondering.”

Once, in a newspaper interview, my husband referred to me as a bulldog, and they printed it. I was not too thrilled about being referred to as a bulldog, but I had to admit that I exhibited those behaviors. What matters most is what we do for our children, not how we are referred.

I know Donna will keep charging forward until the day she hears Brandy’s sweet voice greeting her: “Hello, Mom. I love you.”

For additional information about Brandy, please see http://www.truckingboards.com/trucking/upload/showthread.php?t=122


Blogger jlra05 said...

Your site gives inspiration to many that see it. Awesome work. Thanks for being there for the ones that doesnt have a voice. Good luck to you.

3:39 AM  
Blogger jackaranda said...

There is really not much one can do to help the families in these cases.
However I would suggest almost everyone is thinking of them, and praying for a good outcome for them all. Maybe this can give them some comfort.
No one will ever understand how they feel, unless they have walked in their shoes.

3:44 AM  
Blogger BRENNIE'S FRIEND said...

i'll post about brandy on my site too.

12:44 PM  

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