For six months, a white cross has stood tall in a grassy area near the intersection of Bay Pines and Laurel Bay roads in Beaufort.
A woman’s name was painted down the middle in purple. Signatures and messages from her friends and family were scrawled all around it.
The cross was the main fixture in a memorial remembering Tayla Hill, 20, who died from injuries she sustained in a late-night car crash last year. It was erected on Nov. 19, 2018, just days after her death.
Now it’s gone.
On May 21, someone drove up to the memorial, dug it up, and took it, Hill’s mother Ericka Rivers told The Island Packet.
Now, Rivers and her husband Harold are searching for answers.
Rivers said the person that took the memorial did it intentionally because it was cemented into the ground so it required effort to uproot. She also said it seems like the person targeted Hill’s memorial because it didn’t appear like any other memorials on that road had been messed with.
The memorial was irreplaceable, Rivers said, a true communal effort.
Neighbors built the cross; Hill’s family contributed other pieces; and friends — including ones from when Hill attended Whale Branch Early College High School, the Technical College of the Lowcountry, and Coastal Carolina University, and worked at a local Bi-Lo — helped create the memorial and make it what it was.
“For you to take that away,” Rivers said. “We can’t get all of that back but we’re going to put what we can back.”
After her death, Hill was laid to rest in her hometown of Washington D.C., said Rivers — who has lived in Beaufort County since 2010. The roadside memorial where the crash happened is the one place dedicated to giving Hill’s friends and family in South Carolina a place to go and, in a way, be with her.
“I never knew how many people’s lives she touched here until everyone came to the first memorial,” Rivers said. “It’s important for her not to be forgotten ... She was always a pleasant and happy person to be around.”
More than a week after the memorial’s disappearance, the family still doesn’t know who took it or why.
But they did know one thing — they wouldn’t let Hill be forgotten.
On Monday, friends and family gathered again to install a new memorial in the same place the last one had been.
This cross — which was painted purple because that was Hill’s favorite color — now stands taller than its predecessor. Tayla’s name is prominently placed in blue paint down the middle with framed photos of her nailed to the center. Different colored hand prints take up the rest of the space.
The family has gotten positive feedback from the community on social media, people saying they are glad the memorial is back.
“I just hope it stays there this time,” Rivers said.