By Lynn R. Mitchell
Many were touched by Hannah Graham’s disappearance. Some knew her. Others knew someone who knew her — that is my connection through my first-year UVa student niece who had known Hannah since attending French Academy with her at Washington and Lee University in 2012. Many had children and felt the anguish Hannah’s parents were going through. The community closed ranks, embracing the family, and worked together in a way that is not often seen. Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo never let go of his tenacity nor his promise to Hannah’s parents to find her, and with the help of thousands of volunteers, he was able to keep that promise although, sadly, not in the way he would have liked.
Many reporters and some bloggers have followed along but one who has stood out because of the information he was able to provide that wasn’t necessarily found in the regular news feeds was Coy Barefoot, a Charlottesville resident who wears many hats including writer, history professor at UVa, radio personality, and more. But most importantly, as seen in his words below, he wears the “Dad” hat.
Friday after it was officially announced by police that the remains found a week earlier behind an abandoned house on Old Lynchburg Road were, indeed, those of Hannah Graham, Mr. Barefoot wrote the following on his Facebook page. It perhaps helps reflect the feelings of so many who were hoping for the best in this search but feared for the worst which is exactly what happened. I emailed to ask if I could share it and he graciously gave permission to do so:
LATE THIS AFTERNOON as a tired sun was preparing to set itself against the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, I drove south out of Charlottesville down Old Lynchburg Road. This narrow country road winds back and forth through the woods, and up and down the hills. It is a beautiful drive, and has always been one of my favorites.
I was scheduled to do a live hit for CNN at about 545p. The crew had gotten permission from a nearby property owner to set up our shot along Ammonett Branch, which is where Hannah was found. We were in the woods, down the hill, right behind the empty little house that you’ve seen in the news. Our live hit got bumped due to some other breaking reports, and I was unable to join them in the second hour, nor was I able to accept the request to join Anderson Cooper tonight, because I had an evening already scheduled with my kids— and I was not going to miss that.
While we were down there in the woods tonight, I walked off by myself and up to the edge of the creek and took this picture. I don’t have to explain it to you. It doesn’t need any kind of a caption. You know why I pointed the camera in that direction. I did not see the footprint of a monster. I did not sense the echo of horror, even though I know on a dark night not too long ago this very spot was the scene of a nightmare.
I stood there along the creek in those Virginia woods, and I listened to the wind ripple through the trees. In the distance a dog barked, once and then once again. I watched the autumn leaves let go, falling around me, dancing their way into the arms of the earth. I was so overcome by the most amazing sense of peace and rest, I cannot fully express it. At my feet the water whispered as it coursed along the ground finding its way out of the shadows to the Hardware River, and through the mountains to the James, which will run laughing across Virginia to the Chesapeake Bay and then leap into the Atlantic— where with outstretched hands it will hold the sky.
I want each one of you to know how peaceful and how beautiful those woods are, and how lovely is the silent song at the water’s edge. Good night Hannah.