‘SHE WAS A BEAUTIFUL SPIRIT’: SLAIN NURSING STUDENT DESTINY WASHINGTON HONORED AT UAB VIGIL

by Carol Robinson (The Associated Press)

More than 100 people gathered on UAB’s campus Wednesday night to remember Destiny Washington, a genuine, beautiful 20-year-old whose dreams were cut short by a single bullet six days ago.

Washington was remembered by instructors and friends as someone who was driven to do her best and did just that in a quiet and earnest way.

“Y’all did an amazing job with that baby,’’ said Natasha Brown, head volleyball coach at Clay Chalkville High School. “She was a beautiful spirit.”

Washington was shot to death Thursday, Dec. 17, in the parking lot of the student center at University Boulevard and 14th Street South.

Washington was with her boyfriend to sell someone a pair of AirPods. Family said the boyfriend realized the money was fake, retrieved the AirPods and began to leave. That’s when the suspect fired a shot into the vehicle, striking Washington.

The boyfriend drove her to Children’s of Alabama – the closest hospital – where she was pronounced dead.

Birmingham police on Monday announced the arrest of ex-UAB football player and current UAB student Carlos Stephens on a capital murder charge. Stephens, who had no prior criminal arrests, remains held without bond in the Jefferson County Jail. His first court appearance is set for Dec. 28.

Washington was completing classes at Lawson State through UAB’s Joint Admission program and was set to graduate in May 2021 as a registered nurse. Though initially she wanted to work in neonatal care, she had changed her mind and planned on becoming a traveling nurse. “

Before she became a student in nursing, she was recognized as one of Lawson’s Phi Theta Kappa scholars,’’ said Darren Allen, Dean of Students at Lawson State.

The honor society is made up of the top students enrolled in two-year colleges around the U.S. “We’re so pleased that Destiny was a part of our family and we’re so pleased that she made progress not only in the classroom but, according to her instructors, inspired others to do well.”

“Our hearts grieve with you,’’ Allen said. “We do share in the promise of resurrection, the promise of new life as well and we pray for this family that you would continue to be strong.”

Charmaine Rodgers was one of Washington’s nursing instructors. She said because of COVID-19, she first met Washington during video instruction but eventually met her in person during clinicals.

“As fate would have it, that was one of the craziest days I had on the floor and Destiny was right beside me to experience it all,’’ she said. “Throughout the day I said, ‘I don’t know what I would have done had you not been here.’’’

Though quiet and reserved, Rodgers said, Washington was a force on the floor.

“She was more of an action person, ‘I’ll show you what I can do,’’’ she said. “Destiny was taking off down the hall after nurses just trying to jump in there and own this profession that she was approaching. She wanted it.”

“She was a good one. I wish I could take credit for it, but a caring spirit and a spirit of inquiry, that’s not something that I can teach,’’ Rodgers said. “She came to me equipped with that. She showed me she was built for it. She meant it.”

Someone who knows the pain of Washington’s family all too well is Angela Harris, whose daughter Aniah Blanchard, 19, was kidnapped from a convenience store parking lot in Auburn and murdered just over one year ago.

Harris, who in the aftermath of her daughter’s death has formed Aniah’s Heart, a non-profit aimed at educating the community about personal safety habits, spoke at the vigil for Washington. She said she learned about Washington’s death on Facebook.

“I saw Destiny’s picture and all I saw was her beautiful face. And I saw what had happened and I screamed, ‘No, please, no.’ What could I have done to prevent this from happening to her?’’ Harris said. “I’m so sorry. There are no words to say, but I am so sorry that you guys have lost your beautiful daughter to this senseless act of violence.”

 “I know the pain,’’ Harris said. “The pain is bad.”

Through Aniah’s Heart, Harris, also a nurse, and others are teaching selfdefense, safety education and situational awareness, among other things.

“There are people out there that are evil and as much as we prepare, we’re not going to be able to prepare for that person that we run into that may want to harm us, but we have to do our best to try,’’ Harris told the crowd.

“Take care of yourself and your family. Prepare yourself and your family,’’ she said. “We all have to do this together in our communities.” Part of the solution, she said, is raising children that are somehow taught not to become someone who commits acts of violence.

 She said although she didn’t know Washington, she will now never forget her.

 “I can’t get her face out of my mind and I never will be able to now,’’ Harris said. “She’s right there with my baby and when I think of Aniah, I’m going to think of Destiny.”

Washington’s funeral will be held at noon Saturday, Dec. 26, at Jefferson Memorial Gardens on Gadsden Highway. Visitation will be held from 2 p.m. until 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve at Integrity Funeral Home in Hueytown.