"It's heart-wrenching," Donna Eckhardt said. "For me, my heart felt like it was going to stop and I didn't know what to do."
Donna's daughter, Darian Eckhardt, was killed in a car crash on her way to school last year. She was 18. In the days after, the memorial sprang up at the scene of the crash.
Passing by this week, Donna saw the memorial was gone.
"We saw nothing. I was like, 'where did Darian's garden go?'" she said.
After making sure no neighbors or county workers were responsible, Donna realized someone else came and stole keepsakes and knocked down the cross.
Donna found the cross in a nearby field. She's already rebuilding the memorial, but she says the vandalism hurt her.
"It felt like reliving it in a way," she said.
Amazingly, Donna chooses to forgive whomever did this.
"It would be a disservice to her not to," she said. "I can feel her saying, 'Mom, it's ok. It's just stuff. They can have it.'"
Darian's friends like Brady Clark Rene remember her for her peace, love and forgiveness.
"She'd be like, 'on to the next one.' How can we fix this rather than how can we be disappointed about this?" Clark said.
Donna knows whoever tore it down could strike again.
"I would plead with them and beg for them to think about it before they do it, because it does take family members and friends back to a place that's really dark," she said.
Donna honors Darian by moving forward with her own life.
"It's so much more of a testimony of love I have for her to keep going forward," she said.
It's the same for the memorial, she said. Fear of losing it again doesn't erase the joy it brings.
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