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Memory of a friend inspires graduate

December 14, 2011 12:00AM

When Aisha Ford walks across the stage to receive her diploma this weekend, she won’t be alone. Family and friends will surround her, of course, but she’ll also be accompanied by the memory of her best friend, Alanna Smith.

Aisha Ford portrait“I definitely feel her presence in my life,” Ford said of Smith, who died in a car accident that nearly claimed her own life.

Ford, a Kansas City, Kan., native, was a sophomore in October 2009 when the accident occurred. Smith, also a Kansas City, Kan., native and a student at UMKC, drove as the pair headed toward Pittsburg on US 69. Ford can’t recall many of the details of the accident. She’s not even sure just where it happened, but somewhere between Fort Scott and Arma, they struck a northbound SUV head on.

Smith was killed outright. Ford was airlifted to a Kansas City hospital with massive internal bleeding and a broken elbow.

“They said I stopped breathing,” Ford said. “I know that I am blessed and that someone was looking out for me.”

Ford was in the hospital for a week before they could operate to fix her arm. After that, she faced physical therapy. Ford’s physical wounds were quick to heal but her emotional scars seemed almost too much for her to bear.

Although Ford describes herself as “a tough cookie,” the loss of her best friend left her deeply traumatized.

“She brought out the best in me,” Ford said of Smith. “She pushed me to do a lot. She was like my other half.”

When Ford expressed a desire to drop out of college, her mother stepped in with some words of wisdom that motivated her to refocus her energy on getting her degree.

“My momma said it would be such a disservice to my friend and her family not to finish (because I lost her),” Ford said.

Ford returned to school and this week the mathematics education major took the Teacher’s Oath at PSU’s College of Education Student Teacher Recognition Ceremony. In January, Ford will return to PSU to begin working on a graduate degree.

Ford’s pretty certain her dear friend approves and although Smith is gone from this world, Ford still believes her friend is urging her onward and cheering her success.

©2011 Pittsburg State University