From Whispers to Roars

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Birthday Vigil For Brandy Hanna 11/18//06 @ 7pm est.

Year and a half later, question stands
Candlelight vigil to ask again, where is Brandy?


BY BRIAN HICKS
The Post and Courier

She put it off for more than a year, but Donna Parent knew she had to do it. She had to go through her daughter's belongings one more time.

When Brandy Hanna vanished in May 2005, Parent and a friend hastily stored her things. So much going on. Not enough time to think about it. Plus, she couldn't bring herself to do it, she couldn't bear to look at it.

But a few months ago, she could no longer bear not to. She rummaged through all she had left of her first-born and there it was: a tiny ring, something she thought was long gone. Parent slipped the ring on her finger that afternoon, and it's not been off since. Right now, it's all she's got left to hold onto.

Today is Brandy's 34th birthday, and in a few days she will have been missing a year and a half.

"Her friends told me she had pawned it," Parent said of the ring. "But there it was, tucked into a wallet."

On Saturday, Brandy's friends and family will hold a candlelight birthday vigil for her at the Alex's Restaurant, where she worked with her mother until the day she vanished.

Donna Parent's life has changed immeasurably since May 20, 2005. It has become a blur of false leads and false hopes, missing persons' networks and calls from The Maury Povich show.

Police haven't had a solid lead in months, and one of the people Parent thought might know something about her daughter's disappearance has died.

She has been pushing state, local and federal officials to intervene, urging police to do more, but she is getting nowhere. She is learning the hard truth that missing adults are not high on anyone's priority list, save for their families.

"I think she's holding up, but she doesn't have a choice," says Carol Billips, owner of Alex's Restaurant, and Parent's longtime employer and friend. "I know some days are very rough for her."

Since she disappeared, Billips has devoted her restaurant's reader board to the simple message: "Where is Brandy?" And it will stay there, Billips says, until there is an answer.

Inside the restaurant, a shrine of missing posters and newspaper stories and where waitresses wear buttons with Brandy's face on their aprons, conversation often turns to the missing waitress. Billips says the idea is to keep people talking about it, refuse to allow them to forget, because the answer is out there somewhere.

"I do feel like one day there will be an answer, and I feel it's here in North Charleston," Billips says. "Even if it's not a good result, she needs to know."

Even if Parent wanted to forget for a just a moment, she could not. Brandy is everywhere - her photo is on the back of Parent's truck, her face is plastered all over Alex's. Parent even has Brandy's named etched in her arm.

Occasionally an errant customer, somebody passing through, will say they've seen Brandy before, maybe in Louisiana, but Parent has quit listening. She can't stand to.

There have been a few bright spots, moments of kindness that have given her faith. A woman from Ohio read about Brandy on the Internet and sent a new laptop computer to be raffled off, the funds going into a reward account that now stands, collecting dust and interest, at about $6,400.

Parent throws herself into her work - "It keeps your mind busy," she says - but she spends most of her time plotting her next move. She writes letters to the governor's office, to congressmen, state lawmakers. She tries to prod the police into action, although investigators say they have exhausted every avenue available. They need a lead.

But Parent cannot sit back and wait, allow this cold case to be forgotten. There's "not a minute, hardly," that she doesn't think about her daughter, wonder what happened. She concedes that she may never know the answer, but it will not keep her from looking.

"I question it, but I have to know," she says. "I won't stop."

Brandy Hanna disappeared from her North Charleston apartment May 20, 2005. She had worked at Alex's Restaurant on Dorchester Road all day, caught a ride home and made plans to go shopping with a friend that evening. She talked with her mother by phone early that evening, and no one has seen her since.

Police have turned up no leads in months, and her mother is pushing state, local and federal officials to do more to help find her daughter.

A vigil for Brandy will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday at Alex's Restaurant on Dorchester Road.

Reach Brian Hicks at 937-5561 or bhicks@postandcourier.com.


This article was printed via the web on 11/16/2006 4:57:27 PM . This article appeared in The Post and Courier and updated online at Charleston.net on Thursday, November 16, 2006.


For more information on Brandy click Here.

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