There’s still hope

Published 10:13 pm Tuesday, December 21, 2010

There is the usual lighted tree and other baubles reminiscent of the holiday season in the Benjamin households in Selma. But this year will be a particularly hard one for those relatives of a missing teenage girl.

“It will be a hard Christmas,” said Regina Benjamin, the mother of Tarasha “Pooh” Benjamin. “She is in our thoughts and in our prayers. We’re still searching for her.”

Nearly six months ago on a Saturday, the 17-year-old Selma teen left her house to go to a nearby flea market.

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Regina Benjamin last saw her daughter at 10 a.m. that day. She wore blue shorts, a striped turquoise, yellow and white short-sleeve shirt and possibly she wore sliver sandals.

The gray Mazda Tribute she drove was discovered abandoned on the Cecil Jackson Bypass. The truck had two missing windows on the driver’s side and a broken door on the driver’s side.

“It has been six months to the day on Dec. 26,” said Selma City Councilwoman Angela Benjamin, Pooh’s cousin. “This is so sad, but we keep looking.”

Regina Benjamin has her good days and her bad days, relatives say. She walks to a photograph of her daughter and kisses it. She speaks a prayer, asking for her daughter’s safe return.

This is the second big event without the teen. On Sept. 16, the family gathered in Bloch Park, each wearing a special tee shirt with Pooh’s face on it. Each celebrating the 18-year-old milestone their missing relative would have celebrated if she had not gone missing.

Tosha Benjamin, Pooh’s aunt, fields questions from the curious nearly every day. Where is Pooh? Has she been found? Is she all right?

“She has been missing so long, it seems like people think she’s come back home,” Tosha Benjamin said. “But I tell them the search still continues. We do a little.”

In those first few weeks of Pooh’s disappearance, family members recruited friends, neighbors and others to scour Selma and the areas just beyond. Experts from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children came to Selma to help with the search, which expanded into nearby states.

Still nothing.

If Pooh were with her family now at the Christmas season she would be out shopping, buying gifts, and primping to look pretty for the holiday season, Tosha said.

“I think about her every night when I go to bed,” the aunt said. “It has been hard to deal with.”

Each day, each family members hopes for the same thing — someone will show up and tell them Pooh is safe and well or that Pooh will walk through the door, unhurt, smiling like old times.

But for now, the family will celebrate Christmas with this dark cloud hanging over them and they will try to pray and believe, Angela Benjamin said.

Said Tosha Benjamin, “We don’t know if she is dead or alive. There’s so much going on and it’s the holidays. We just pray.”

Anyone with any information on the missing girl is asked to call Linda Benjamin at 419-0626 or Tosha Benjamin at 419-4381.