Aniah Bonner, a 16-year-old junior at THS, died in a single-vehicle accident at approximately 1 a.m. Sunday when the 2000 Honda Accord she was driving struck a power pole near East Street North.
According to THS Principal Darren Anglin, the students took charge to make the memorial happen, and most of the students in attendance wore orange, one of Aniah’s favorite colors.
“I do want to say how proud I am of the junior class for thinking about this and putting this together,” Anglin said.
Anglin addressed the crowd, the bulk of them clutching balloons on a string, to open the memorial.
“You can see with this many students turning out at this time of day how much Aniah was loved on our campus,” Anglin said. “We are certainly going to miss her. It’s hard to put into words how all of us feel, so I think this is such an appropriate way to honor her right now. We are going to continue to think about her for our entire time together.”
Talladega City Schools Superintendent Douglas Campbell asked the crowd to join him in a moment of silence to reflect on the tragic loss of one of their own.
Following the moment of silence, Anglin instructed those in the crowd with balloons to wait for his signal to release, following the reading of a poem over the stadium loudspeaker.
After the poem was read, the crowd released the balloons into the air.
As the balloons drifted toward the heavens, sounds of sorrow replaced the space where the balloons had resided.
One of the students cried out, “We love you, Aniah!” as many in crowd began to weep.
When the memorial concluded, Anglin offered his view on the challenges associated with losing a student.
“Nothing really prepares you for something like this,” Anglin said. “When you start thinking about becoming an educator, you just don’t think these kind of things. I think the only thing that can come close to preparing you is your faith.”
A member of the Student Government Association and an aspiring journalist, Aniah fit the description of a great student in Anglin’s eyes.
“She took initiative to make things better,” Anglin said. “I believe (THS) is a better place just from having her here.”
When the crowd was dismissed, several members offered their condolences to Aniah’s mother, Kioka Bonner-Buckhanon.
“I’m just grateful that Aniah’s classmates loved her just as much as she loved them,” Bonner-Buckhanon said. “She really loved (THS). She enjoyed her time there and looked forward to being a graduate of THS along with myself and my two other sisters. She had such high hopes and goals that started here at THS. They put a lot of positive things into her, and I just thank God we were able to have her here.”
Contact Shane Dunaway at firstname.lastname@example.org