Here are the undisputed facts:
On Oct. 4, 2016, motorist – Karen Michelle Carpenter – widely identified by local authorities and news media, drove around the right side of a stopped Pontotoc County school bus, struck and killed seven-year-old student Amiya Braxton, who was exiting the bus. In an act of heroism, before she was struck, Amiya turned and pushed her brother back to save him.
The moment Carpenter drove around that school bus, she violated several state laws, including Senate Bill 2472, “Nathan’s Law,” which was passed into law by the 2011 Mississippi Legislature. Violating “Nathan’s Law” is a felony regardless of intent or motive. Two years later a nine-year-old Baldwyn boy was tragically killed in a similar tragic event. His assailant was charged and convicted.
What remains in dispute and under a cloud of mistrust and suspicion is why two Pontotoc County grand juries refused to return an indictment against Carpenter, who, to this day has never been charged with Amiya’s death.
This atrocious miscarriage of justice remains a pain in the hearts of Amiya’s family, and in the hearts of her schoolmates, who still remember her lively, vivacious spirit. Amiya’s tragic death is slowly fading into distant memory.
Or is it?
Monday, Pontotoc County supervisors, with the urging of Sheriff Leo Mask, made a tentative commitment to erect a sign near where Amiya was killed on Old Highway 9 which will designate that stretch of highway: “Amiya Braxton Memorial Highway.” My prayer is that folks in the Baldwyn area will take up a similar mantle and honor the little nine-year old the same way.
I understand that several “Justice for Amiya” supporters also hope to raise private funds to put up a sign with her picture.
While it isn’t the same as justice, it will serve as a fitting memorial to a young life snuffed out too soon.
In the meantime, I continue to pray for Justice for Amiya.
THE REV. JAMES HULL is an award-winning journalist and a communications consultant. Readers can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My heart and prayers go out to the family of Amiya Braxton. Her heroic deed to save her brother in the face of death should always be remembered.
I haven’t heard about the sign or the “Amiya Braxton Memorial Highway” commitment, but you are so right that this is a fitting memorial to a young life that ended much too soon.
I haven’t any knowledge of this tragedy except for news reports. I do know that the love for a child is so deep that a wound from a tragedy such as this, when it happens, will never be totally healed.
But in the enduring pain of such a tragic loss, we reflect on how short and precious life really is. Hug your children more, spend time with them now, and search each day for the hidden nuggets of joy. If time can be compared to a string being spun into a ball of twine, we cannot unravel that string. But we can manage to live each day to its fullest, making sure we stop to smell the roses and appreciate that our time on this earth is limited. Each day is like that single thread wrapping around the ball of twine telling our story. Amiya’s story provides hope that we can even now understand how important and valuable our relationships are.
When I travel, I do take notice of memorial highway signs. I know that a community has recognized this honored person. Their spark can still shine within us – encouraging us to make our communities better. For Amiya Braxton and the young boy who died in Baldwyn, let us allow their short lives to always encourage us. Mississippi must always strive to put the safety of our children first and that includes when our children are boarding and leaving school buses. The very best way for all Mississippians to honor Amiya is for all Mississippi drivers to always put Mississippi students’ safety first whenever we are behind the wheel.
DR. ED HOLLIDAY is a Tupelo dentist who has written two successful books. Readers can contact him at email@example.com.