Vandals destroyed a roadside memorial to a teenage accident victim on Hwy 149 near Magnolia last week, leaving her family devastated. Donna Eckhardt, the victim’s mother, was driving past the site when she saw the damage and the items missing from the site of Darian Eckhardt’s death. The 18-year-old girl was on her way to school last year when the fatal crash occurred. As is so often the case, the memorial sprung up in the days after her death, with family and friends adding tributes and memories, trying to find a way to express their grief and love the beautiful and kindhearted girl who was taken without warning. Donna Eckhardt had driven past the site regularly and found some comfort in it being there. When everything was removed from the site, it was another cruel jolt to the still grieving mother.
“We saw nothing. I was like, ‘where did Darian’s garden go?” Donna Eckhardt said. “It’s heart-wrenching for me. My heart felt like it was going to stop, and I didn’t know what to do.”
She hoped there was a reasonable explanation, and made sure the memorial wasn’t removed by county workers or neighbors before accepting that someone had done it simply to be cruel. The various keepsakes people left there were taken, and the cross that had stood at the site was removed and tossed in a nearby field.
Donna Eckhardt has already begun to rebuild the memorial, despite knowing the vandals might return. What’s more, she has chosen to forgive whoever committed the cruel act, saying that’s what her daughter would want. Darian’s friends agreed, saying they remembered the teen for her love and forgiveness. All felt forgiveness was the best way to remember her.
Donna Eckhardt said she honors her late daughter by continuing to move forward.