I?Äôm in tears reading the criminal complaint and charges against Zachary Anderson that were filed in court about an hour ago.
There is an odd sense of relief knowing what happened, even though it was all so unspeakably horrible.
After reading through the details, one thought rose above the others. They found Alayna after they spotted a corner of her fresh pink Disney ?ÄúFrozen?Äù Princess Elsa blanket.
According to the complaint, Anderson tried to hide her lifeless body under debris in the swamp. But they found her pink blanket in the water, and that led them to find her.
Alayna Ertl was a sometimes shy little girl who, by all accounts, was always happy. She especially loved to dance around in her outfits and to sing, especially ?ÄúLet It Go?Äù from the Disney movie ?ÄúFrozen.?Äù She slept with her Princess Elsa blanket every night. The pink Princess Elsa blanket that helped deputies find her little body.
Anderson seems to be cooperative with authorities; he led them to the swampy woods where he had tried to hide Alayna. I can only hope and pray that he continues to cooperate and that answers to the question ?ÄúWhy??Äù can emerge, now that we have some of the ?ÄúHow??Äù questions answered.
But please, let?Äôs not focus on what was done to her in those last, few hours of her life. That is a tiny flash of time in the 51,000-some hours of her life. Let us instead remember the giggles and laughs, the hugs and dances, the smiles and songs that filled those 51,000-some hours.
Alayna was the joy and light of her parents?Äô and grandparents?Äô lives. All who knew her were warmed by her spirit. She was a friend to everyone, loving and kind. Let this be the memory that lives on.
Thousands of people have been following Alayna?Äôs story, in the news and on social media. Thousands of dollars have been raised: people touched by Alayna?Äôs story and donating to her family is a tangible way they can help. They all, in some way, share the pain of Alayna?Äôs story. I hope they can share some of the joy of her life too.
Tonight (Tuesday) will be the candlelight vigil for Alayna. It?Äôs really more for Alayna?Äôs family; a strong show of support for them in what has to be the lowest possible point in their lives.
Next week, after Alayna has been laid to eternal rest, and the TV news trucks go away, Matt and Kayla and brother Carter will try to find a new ?Äúnormal?Äù in their lives. Please continue to pray for all of Alayna?Äôs family and friends in the days, weeks, months and years to come!
School will begin soon ?Ä¶ without Alayna; her class will start kindergarten in two weeks. Life will go on ?Ä¶ without Alayna. Holidays, birthdays, weddings, summer vacations, all this and more will continue. There will be happiness and joy again in her family?Äôs lives. There will. Alayna will not be present to play and sing and twirl. But her spirit will always be with her family. Always.
And I hope a little of it will be present with each of us. Let us claim a little bit of her joy as our own, and make it a mission to spread it everywhere. Not one of us is promised tomorrow, so let?Äôs fully live in today.
Sing and twirl when you feel like it. Hug and touch and snuggle when you need to. Go out and take joy in life?Äôs every-day events. Wear your cowboy boots, just because. Say things like ?ÄúI love you?Äù and
?ÄúI think you?Äôre great?Äù and ?Äúyou?Äôre special to me?Äù as often as you possibly can.
Hold the loved ones in your life even closer. Live as if today is all we have, for we know not what tomorrow brings.
Hold onto your pink blanket ?Äì whatever form that is for you ?Äì and love it to pieces. Literally love it to shreds.
Let Alayna, and her little pink blanket, show you the way to joy ?Äì the kind that nothing can take away or destroy. Let her forever be a little princess.
As a final note, please keep in mind that turning our grief and pain into hatred toward Anderson is not a solution. A heart filled with joy and love has no room for hatred, toward anyone. He is clearly a troubled soul, and his Maker will mete out the appropriate judgment on him.