When one woman and her nine-month-old daughter lost their lives in a tragic car accident, it left their family devastated. Some of them even questioned their faith in God. But then they spotted something in a photograph that would give them the strength to go on.
In 2017 Hannah Simmons was 23 and loving her life as a young mom. Her daughter, A’lannah, was just nine months old, and Simmons enjoyed nothing more than spending time with her. Indeed, one of their favorite things to do was sing nursery rhymes together.
Little A’lannah was making great strides in her development and was already zipping all over in her walker. Her mom was also making strides in life and had recently set up home with Javont’e Hopkins, her fiancé. Furthermore, the couple were expecting another baby together.
With one young child and another on the way, Simmons was constantly running errands. Yes, she was a very busy mum, and on one day she found herself driving around in Hall County, Georgia. She had just attended a doctor’s appointment and was in the car with A’lannah and her friend Lauren Buteau.
Simmons was used to making the drive; in fact, it was an almost everyday occurrence. But then, on April 25, 2017, disaster struck. According to Georgia State Patrol, Simmons lost control of her vehicle and swerved into the way of an oncoming truck.
And while the truck driver was not injured, the same could not be said for those in Simmons’ car. Tragically, Simmons, Buteau and little A’lannah all died in the smash. Naturally, the news devastated their families.
“It’s challenging how to live your life day to day without the people who were there for you every day,” Paige Wilson, Simmons’ cousin, told Channel 2 in May 2017. “Hannah, that was my best friend,” she said. “She was my maid of honor and the godmother of my children. A’lannah was my goddaughter.”
Wilson was also close to Buteau and said that her friend had an infectious personality. “Lauren was the life of the party,” she stated. “She could light up any room and make anyone laugh.”
It’s safe to say that relatives of both girls were at one of their lowest ever ebbs. To make matters worse, the women’s families couldn’t afford to pay the funeral costs of their loved-ones. As a result, a crowdfunding campaign was set up in an attempt to raise the money.
However, that’s when Anisa Gannon made a discovery. Gannon was caught in the tailbacks caused by the accident on that fateful April day. And although what had happened concerned her, she was more worried about being late for work.
Consequently, she whipped out her cell and took a picture of the unfolding scene. “As proof that I was sitting in the wreck,” Gannon explained to People in May. “In case my boss wondered why I was late.”
After she snapped the image, Gannon didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t until later, when she showed her aunt, Tara Noble, the picture, that she took a closer look. What she saw would have come as a complete surprise to them both.
As the pair were staring at the image, they noticed what looked like a beam of light. The golden ray stretched right from the wreckage up to the clouds above. “She said, ‘Anisa, it looks like a pathway up to heaven,’” Gannon explained, recalling her aunt’s reaction.
As a result, Noble decided to track Simmons’ and Buteau’s families down. She thought if they could see the image, it might just answer some questions in their minds. “I just wanted to give them some peace,” she explained.
Indeed, when Noble showed it to Simmons’ mom, Judy, it reassured her that everything would be alright. “I just needed something to show me that they were in heaven and that they were okay,” she said. “And that was my confirmation.”
“Nothing’s ever going to be the same,” the distraught mom added in her interview with People. “My heart’s broken and I miss them daily. If it wasn’t for the picture, I don’t know… it made it a whole lot better for me.”
Similarly, Buteau’s aunt, Jodi Carter, said the photograph had given her some kind of strength. “I’m at peace with this because I know they’re in a better place than we are now,” she said to Channel 2. “It took my breath away. Chills covered my body, and then a peace came over me.”
Now while some have tried to dismiss the ray of light as a glare on the camera, Carter has her own beliefs. “I see God taking them up to heaven,” she said. “Their spirits, their orbs are up there. No other explanation.”
Buteau’s cousin, Paige Winston, also said the image had reaffirmed her belief in God. After the crash, she felt at odds with her faith, but now she can see things another way. “When I saw the picture, it completely reassured me. We may not understand why things happen like this,” she told Channel 2.
While we may never get to the bottom of the mysterious “Staircase to Heaven” picture, its impact has at least been largely positive. It provided comfort to two families in their hardest of days, and that, to them, was no doubt a miracle in itself.