Brandy`s 1 year Vigil
[/hr]Daughter's disappearance an open wound
BY BRIAN HICKS
The Post and Courier
It has been a year, and still she cannot sleep.
Her life has become one long nightmare, a hunt that never ceases. Everywhere she looks, Donna Parent sees her daughter - on the street, in the store. She has to force herself not to follow every passing car with a thin blond woman inside.
It's not her, she constantly has to tell herself.
The restaurant she manages has become a shrine of missing person posters and well-wishers who come in to eat every day. A year later, and the Alex's Restaurant's reader board still asks 'Where is Brandy?'
After work, Parent spends much of her time on the computer, reading about and corresponding with people who are just like her, who have lost someone without a notion of when they may find out what happened. Like her, they try to avoid the unthinkable: that they may never know. So many people out there like her, she realizes with great sadness.
Every night as she lies down to attempt sleep, Donna Parent looks at her daughter's picture and asks the same question:
Where are you?
On Saturday night, nearly 100 people gathered at Alex's Restaurant on Dorchester Road to mark the one-year anniversary of Brandy Hanna's disappearance with prayer and a candlelight vigil. On May 20, 2005, Hanna, then 32, got off from work there on a Friday afternoon with big plans for the weekend.
She caught a ride home with a customer and made plans to go shopping that night, to be ready for a trip to the beach. She spoke with her mother once more on the phone. And then nothing.
All leads in the case have proven dead ends. The few suspects brought in passed polygraph tests, leaving police stumped. Every day more time passes without answers, without clues.
One year later, and all of the sudden Brandy's disappearance is a cold case.
'This is a situation that a year ago I never thought I would be in,' Parent says. 'I can't stop looking, because if I stop, who's going to look for her?'
Parent has become disillusioned about a lot of things. Mostly, she is upset that no one has found her daughter. When she first reported her missing, it was nearly a week before police would investigate, because adults have a right to be missing.
Police departments across the country say they cannot investigate every call that comes in on a missing adult - they would get little else done.
There are nearly 2 million people missing in the United States right now, about half of them adults. While there are networks and agencies and Amber Alerts for children who go missing, there is no mechanism ? save for dozens of networks that exist on the Internet and in the kitchens of people who have suffered loss ? to hunt for adults who disappear.
'Adult missing person cases are hard. You have the right to be missing, a right to privacy,' says Monica Caison, the founder and executive director of the CUE Center, a missing persons organization in North Carolina. 'I've heard police say they don't want another Runaway Bride story. We've got to stop judging people, and listen when families say someone is missing. If they turn up on a beach drinking pina coladas, so what? Let it embarrass them.'
Caison says that if police had looked quicker at Brandy Hanna's last-known whereabouts, they might have turned up a clue. But in this case, there are no guarantees. Because, unfortunately, hers was a trail that went cold fast.
North Charleston Detective Eric Jourdan said there has been no new information in Brandy's case since last August, when Caison brought search teams and cadaver dogs to town to search several areas. Police followed up on a few leads from those searches, but they were all dead ends.
'What's most frustrating is that she had such a close circle of friends, only four or five people she associated with, and none of them could think of any reason she would want to disappear on her own,' Jourdan says.
A boyfriend, as well as a recent ex-boyfriend, were considered possible suspects, but both submitted to polygraph tests and passed. Since then, one of them, Ray McAdams, has died of natural causes.
'I check Brandy's Web site all the time, looking for anonymous tips, and I check into all unidentified bodies found in the state,' Jourdan says. 'But there's not a lot we can do without some sort of clue.'
Parent has pushed the city to do more, and in February got Mayor Keith Summey to agree to put up billboards with Brandy's face, asking for information in her disappearance.
Parent is upset those billboards have not gone up, but Summey said he's at the mercy of charity. MAC Advertising has agreed to put up a city-designed Brandy billboard starting June 1. They will leave it up all summer, moving it to a new location every month.
'We've been working with MAC, but we've had to wait until they had space available,' Summey said.
On Saturday night, Parent set up a table with Brandy's pictures - as a baby, in the ROTC, at work at Alex's - and the vigil attendees signed the guest book with notes such as, 'We all pray for your safety' and 'You are and always will be my best friend.'
Cindy Cornell, who worked with Brandy at Pappy's in North Charleston, said when she first heard the news, she assumed her friend had 'just gone off somewhere.'
'I hope that's right, I hope she's off somewhere,' Cornell said. 'I just hopes she comes back.'
As the people crowded around the shrine to Brandy began to light their candles, a mighty wind blew up where moments before it had been calm. For several minutes, they tried in vain to light a few flames to Brandy's memory on the anniversary of her disappearance.
Eventually, Parent said it was no use and asked them to simply hold the candles high above their heads for a moment. There would be no candlelight at this vigil.
It was a disappointment for sure, but Parent has had many of them in the past year. This was a small problem, she knows. There is a much bigger one out there, one that has been looming over her entire life for a year now.