Chicago woman works to repay the slain teen who saved her life

Tiara Reed will never forget May 10, 2007. It's the day that made her the woman she is today.

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Tiara Reed will never forget May 10, 2007. It’s the day that made her the woman she is today.

“It was 85 degrees that day,” she recalls. “In Chicago, we never have 85 degrees in May. I think the whole school was excited and was like, oh let’s go outside, let’s do something.”

After leaving school, the then-16 year-old Chicagoan boarded a bus with some of her friends when a teen wearing a hoodie carrying a 40 caliber handgun came on the bus and opened fire. Reed and four others were struck. 

Reed could have died that day. But luck was on her side. Better yet — Blair Holt was by her side. Holt, Reed’s friend, saved her life when he shielded her from gunfire. Reed was struck in the foot but ultimately survived.

Holt died that night.

“His life ended too soon,” Reed told in an interview. “He was a wonderful, wonderful person. Blair was [friends with everyone]. All of us started school together, everyone — all of us were was supposed to [graduate] together, but we didn’t.”

Holt, an honors student at Julian High School on the city’s Far South Side, gave Reed a gift of a lifetime — life. More than nine years later, Reed is doing all she can to pay it forward — she is fighting crime in the courtroom. Now 25, Reed holds a master’s degree in criminal justice and is currently working as a criminal analyst researcher for DuPage County Courts in Illinois.

“I like to be there to help my own people,” Reed said. “I like to be able to help African-American citizens — just someone who knows the law and can actually go out and give a helping hand. “ 

Her ultimate goal is to not only get a PhD. in social work but to become an FBI agent. And she is well on her way.

A few years ago, she needed an internship. The man who ultimately gave it to her was a man who perhaps admires her the most: Ronald Holt, Blair Holt’s father. Holt is the Commander and Executive Officer of the Community Relations Division with the Chicago Police Department.

“I’m very happy for Tiara,” Holt said. “I’m very proud of her because I think she is moving in the right direction and I think that her cause is not just for her but as a remembrance and a legacy of Blair.”

At the time of Blair’s death, he was Holt’s only child. Holt told the press the night his son died he apologized to Blair for not protecting him and kissed his lifeless face while trying to wipe blood from his ears and nose. 

Since then, Holt has dedicated his life to speaking out against gun violence and gangs,  traveling to different states doing so. 

That night, Holt was not the intended target. His killer, 18-year-old Michael Pace, was sentenced to 100 years back in 2009. 

Pace’s sentence was thrown out by an appeals court in 2015. A new sentencing hearing has been ordered.

“It’s very painful to deal with,” Holt admits. “I have moments of sadness, moments of tears; some nights I find myself crying in my pillow. It’s a tough thing to endure, losing a child in such a horrific way, I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.”

This year, Holt and his longtime girlfriend welcomed a baby, a boy named Bradley. Holt says he reminds him of Blair.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him (Blair),” Holt said. “I even think about him even more now that Bradley has been born. There’s so many likenesses between the two.”

Since 2009, crime and gang violence has increased in Chicago. According to the Chicago Police Department, there have been at least 595 murders in the city and at least 3,475 people shot as of mid-October.

For Reed, the fight is not over. She continues to seek justice in her own unique way. It’s her way of saying thank you to Blair and helping to make sure everyone is treated fairly under the law.

“It changed me because, before this — before that, I never even thought about furthering my education past a high school diploma,” Reed said. “So just going through a tragedy, it basically it woke me up; it’s real life and it made me strive and go harder every day.”

Watch this dedication to Blair Holt’s life below:

Ashantai Hathaway is a reporter at theGrio. Keep up with her on Twitter @ashantaih83