Thinking about Shaniya

One story has haunted me for nearly a week now. Last Tuesday, our local news reported about a little five-year-old girl kidnapped from her mother's couch between 5:30 am and 6:30 am.

That's what we knew then. The Amber alert went out and everyone in our community went into action. We talked about Shaniya. We looked for her in the face of every young girl we saw. And then the news came in that she was spotted at a local hotel in the arms of a strange man.

That's when our hope and prayers took another a more desparate note. We wanted to believe she was still alive, that there was a future for little Shaniya, that no one would snuff out a precious life that had so much left to experience. But then...

Two days ago police arrested the child's mother on charges of knowingly selling Shaniya into sexual servitude.

The man seen holding Shaniya and getting onto an elevator with her to take her to a hotel room was arrested and charged with kidnapping.

An anonymous tipster told police they saw Shaniya with a man seemingly in his sixties.

Another tipster suggested police look for Shaniya's body in the woods less than two miles from my house.

And earlier today, searchers -- people who volunteered their time and energy and hearts to find this sweet girl -- stumbled upon her body in those woods.

I don't have many words to describe the gaping wound I feel in my chest. I didn't know Shaniya Davis or her family. I didn't volunteer to search for her, though I yearned to be out there turning over every rock if only to prove she was still alive. What I did was pray for her and her family, and remain riveted to news reports of the investigation.

Right now, just the idea of finding her there, alone and cold and abused and dumped in the woods like garbage. It pierces me. It makes my heart crumble and the tears flow and my body goes wobbly. I cannot imagine her father's pain or how his body will react when he has to identify his baby's body.

I don't know what the lesson here is, but I'm searching for it. Today, I will put my arms around them and shower them with kisses. I will breathe in their scents and show patience for their inability to see past the challenge at their feet.

I will love them with everything I have. And I will pray that Shaniya's death brings love to all the children in my community -- and yours -- tonight.


  • Melissa Wardy

    That slicing, ice cold sliver of fear and pain in your heart right now? I feel it too. Because once you become the mother to one girl, you become a mother to all girls.

    How, how, how could someone violate, disregard, and dispose of a small body so very much like the one we hold warm and safe in our own homes?

    I don't have the answer for that, but I do know that as mothers we have to work to end any and every part of child sex trade. There is NO place for it in this world.

    I need to get up and kiss my daughter now.

  • Kelly Miller

    You are 100 percent correct, Melissa. I feel toward little Shaniya the way I wish her mother felt toward her. Fiercely protective, loving, and torn.

    I also know way too well that the child sex trade is burgeoning and that, yes, it can even happen here.

    Perhaps the lesson is that I need to be more involved in stopping it. Maybe that would start some healing.

  • Katie Jones

    I just have no words for these kind of situations. I really hate to think about them. They get into my head and I cannot shake them for weeks.

    I do not like to think about the kind of mother that would sell her child into the sex trade, knowing what would happen to her. I cannot stand to even look at the picture of the man carrying that five-year-old baby in front of that hotel elevator ... same age as my students (whew- brings tears to my eyes to even think that) ... knowing what he "bought" her for. People like that make me wish we had an eye-for-an-eye justice system.

    In one of the pictures in the hotel, it looks like Shaniya's holding a stuffed animal. For some reason, that detail just jumps out at me and sticks in my head - poor little Shaniya brought a comfort object with her. Pitiful. And it makes me connect her even more with Katie Anne and her little bears and blankets. I hate to even think about that - to make that jump in my mind.

    I wonder about her father. Why didn't that mother just take Shaniya back to her father - and why did her father let her live with that woman in the first place?

    Oh, horrible questions and horrible thoughts. And what a horrible sad end for a five-year-old girl with an entire life of promise ahead of her, cut short by the choice of the very person who gave birth to her.

  • Sarah

    I have to say that I often turn the channel away from horrible news stories involving children. Abduction, rape, violence, abuse. It is too much for me to stomach on most occasions. But at least it is real. It is something we need to hear. Movies and books are even more painful, I find. I cringe at the thought that someone else is trying to portray these hardships. And it is not just violent things that make it difficult to watch. Recently I watch My Sister's Keeper, the movie version of the book. I wept. Just wept through the whole thing. I just can't stand to see children in pain. Children hurt in any way - natural or unnatural.

    So yeah, I understand.

  • Liz Aguerre

    Your quote on momalom about it not being your business??? Loved it. Had to come see who you were, b/c I will be reminding myself of that often these days.

  • becca

    I heard about this on the news and have been in complete and utter shock and disgust. And I instantly went to my daughter who will be 5 next month and wrapped her in a hug. How there could be monsters out there like this is beyond me... and makes me bring those I love even closer by my side.

    Beautifully written post. As painful as it was to write I'm sure.

  • Jen

    This is just so so tragic. And I know exactly what you mean about the gaping wound. I can't even fully digest stories like this, because it just comes too close. I feel paralyzed with fear. Fear that I won't be able to protect my children enough. Or that I will hold onto them too tightly and it will backfire. Or or or. But I like how you ended this, with your hopes that in the utter sadness and tragedy of this loss, we all hug our own kids tightly tonight. I know I will.

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