Blue ribbons. Blue flowers. Blue balloons. All part of the tribute to Aniah Blanchard, a 19-year-old college student who was abducted and killed this fall. Family and friends gathered for her funeral Saturday at the Faith Chapel Christian Center in Birmingham.
Speakers noted her favorite color, which was baby blue, her smile, her laughter and her encouragement to others. They read passages from the Bible and spoke of her Christian faith.
“Aniah has this light, this energy, this vibe about her that’s beautiful,”Blanchard’s cousin Hannah Haley said. “It was contagious and she shared that light everywhere she went.”
Blanchard was a Homewood native and the step-daughter of UFC heavyweight Walt Harris. She attended Southern Union Community College and was last seen October 23rd at a convenience store in Auburn. Her vehicle was later found in Montgomery. Authorities found her remains in November in a wooded area of Macon County. Three people were arrested in connection with her abduction and death, although charges against one have been dropped.
Blanchard’s mother, Angela Harris, fought back tears as she described Blanchard as her “mini-me.” The two shared a birthday.
“There is nothing, not one thing bad to say about her,” Harris said. “She was the glue to our family. She held us all together.”
Blanchard played softball at Homewood High School. Former coach Ami Letson said Blanchard cared for her teammates and wanted to keep them smiling. Letson recalled a time when, after defeating another school’s team, Blanchard went to the opposing players to encourage them.
“This was who Aniah was. She wanted everyone to feel important, to feel needed and to feel loved,” Letson said.
Homewood City Schools Superintendent Bill Cleveland announced a college scholarship will be created in memory of Blanchard. The City of Homewood issued a proclamation declaring Saturday “Aniah Blanchard Day.”
The family expressed thanks to those who provided support since Blanchard’s disappearance, including churches, public officials, law enforcement and groups that aided in the search. Harris told the audience she now has new mission in life.
“I’ll keep fighting forever for Aniah, for justice for Aniah, to do anything I can to help this world be a better place and everybody be safe and protected,” Harris said. “I know that’s what Aniah would want.”