BUCKHANNON — A grave tragedy occurred in the peaceful little community of Upshur County 25 years ago. A three-year-old little girl, born Amanda Elizabeth Steffan, was the victim of childhood physical and sexual abuse so grotesque, that her vibrant life was taken from innocence to immobile. The devastating events from all those years ago were rare, never before heard of in a small family town like Buckhannon. This tragedy set the stage for Amanda’s beautiful young life to be portrayed in the story that only one woman could tell so well, and she will return to do just that next week.
Love Blue – Amanda’s Story is the aptly titled book by author Gwyn Thorn, written to honor her granddaughter. This book is an important piece of Upshur County history because the basis for writing it all started here back in October 1994. A tragedy many remember, and some will never forget, an innocent three-year-old little girl was horrifically beaten and abused, her lifeless body taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital, and then transferred to the specialty care of Ruby Memorial Hospital, forever changing lives in a magnitude few had the misfortune of understanding.
Gwyn Thorn became the grandmother of young Amanda many years ago, when her daughter Jennifer and son-in-law Paul took Amanda under their care in January 1995 via the foster care system of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. Though Amanda could never speak or walk and was totally dependent on her new family for every aspect of her care, Thorn knew that Amanda understood her through the language of her beautiful blue eyes. Thorn promised Amanda many times that she was going to tell her story, and she did just that, in a beautifully written tribute to the life of Amanda in her book, Love Blue – Amanda’s Story.
Although the tragedy of what happened to Amanda was the precursor to her becoming a part of the lives of Thorn and her family, it is not the focus of the book, it is only a very small piece of the tribute. Amanda’s life was so much more than the victimization she faced as a very young and innocent child. Amanda was a very loved and adored daughter, sister, grandchild, and friend. Amanda lived well beyond what was ever anticipated by medical professionals; she triumphed many battles with her health until her time came to pass on February 2, 2016 at the age of 25.
This year marks the 25-year anniversary of the terrible day that young Amanda was so tragically and wrongfully abused. The question of who did this to Amanda lays in the minds of many who remember that awful day and the months that followed with headlines, rumors and courtroom proceedings. The very modest Thorn stated, “Amanda wrote the story with the way she interacted with others; she somehow transcended her limitations.”
Thorn will be making a visit to Buckhannon next week to memorialize her beloved Amanda, and also to promote her book, in hopes that nobody will ever forget what happened to her or this piece of history that helped to organize what we now call the Upshur County Family Resource Network. A portion of the book sale proceeds for the month of October will be donated to the Upshur County FRN in Amanda’s honor.
Thorn will make many appearances on behalf of Amanda while she is visiting Upshur County. One of the most important visits will be to the Upshur County Public Library, where she will conduct a book signing and donate a book to the library to ensure this historical account will always be available. Thorn will also be donating a book to the James Curry Public Library in Brooks Hill, and is hopeful to have a book signing at the new library on the campus of West Virginia Wesleyan College as well, where her son-in-law Paul was a professor at the time they took custody of then young Amanda.