Woman Called Life: ‘Shining Light’ for Children of Syracuse Dies During Panic at Rochester Concert
Syracuse, New York. Her name meant life, and she tried to give the children a good life.
Aisha Haskins-Stevens, 35, from Syracuse, extended a helping hand to students at Blodgett High School. She called them her “babies” and offered her love. She was also the head coach for the Pop Warner cheerleading squad in Kirk Park.
She died on March 8 in a stampede at a rap concert in Rochester on March 5, police said. Authorities said the hype may have been caused by false reports of a shooting.
While Haskins-Stevens fought for her life, her mother stood next to her hospital bed and read all the get-well cards from her Blodgett children.
“I love you,” the card read. “I hope I see you soon.
Her sister Kia Washington and her mother Eloise Jean LeFlore spoke to Syracuse.com at LeFlore’s West Side Dining Room. The table was covered with postcards and flowers. A large portrait of Haskins-Stevens hung on the wall between her mother and sister.
Some memories made them laugh, others made them cry. They had to remind themselves to talk about Haskins-Stevens in the past tense.
Sometimes Cinco, the Yorkshire of Haskins-Stevens, would yell from the back room.
“Aisha has been and continues to be a shining light for the entire community of Syracuse,” her sister said.
Haskins-Stevens grew up in Syracuse. Her name means “life” in Muslim, LeFlore said.
She sang in a choir from the beginning and was in Kirk Park’s cheerleading squad from age 5 to 16, competing three times at Disney World. According to relatives, she learned to control a two-wheeled bicycle in about 30 minutes. Roller skating and ice skating were easy. She loved African dance and hip-hop.
According to her mother, Haskins-Stevens was a peacemaker.
“She was always at the center of everything,” LeFlore said. “And she did it in such a way that neither side ever got mad at her.”
According to her mother, when a food fight broke out at Blodgett High School, she climbed onto the table and yelled at everyone to stop. They listened.
After college, she returned to the Kirk Park cheerleading squad, this time as head coach. According to her mom, she led the team to the national championship at Disney World.
According to Washington, her ability to communicate and help children came about because she was still a child at heart. She was not afraid to jump with them.
“So that’s where their love for her came in because she was able to connect with them in different ways, sit down and interact with them and help them solve their problems,” Washington said.
According to LeFlore, she began working with the Good Living Foundation in Blodgett and found common ground with the children.
Hassan Stevens (no relation), founder of the Good Life Foundation, said she has worked as a family coach, teaching life and entrepreneurial skills and counseling students. According to him, the foundation enters into contracts with local schools to help 20 students, but Haskins-Stevens went even further.
“She was a person who put children before herself,” he said.
“But why is she?
One of the kids she hooked up with was 11-year-old Brexiali Torres-Ortiz, who was gunned down on the sidewalk in January while getting a gallon of milk.
“It was her little friend,” LeFlore said. “Her favorite student.”
Brexiali came to Haskins-Steven’s office and chatted with her.
“Baby came to my office every day!” she wrote on Facebook after Brexiali’s death. “Hi Miss Aisha” with the biggest smile and hug me!
She wrote about talking with her children to Good Life.
“Yesterday’s conversation with them broke me,” she wrote. “I told them please don’t be afraid to go to the store, don’t be afraid to buy a gallon of milk, don’t be afraid to live your life.
“They just kept asking, ‘But why her?’
According to Stevens, Haskins-Stevens has become a mainstay for Brexiali’s friends.
“These kids keep getting hit after hit after hit,” Washington said, “and it’s really, really sad for society.”
“No one took her”
LeFlore said she feels sad and angry about the way her daughter died. She believes it could have been prevented.
The city of Rochester sent a letter to the owner of the hall, Main Street Armory, stating that the guards had failed to control the crowd. Police said they were investigating the size of the crowd as a possible cause. City officials revoked the club’s entertainment license.
Two more women died in the rush: Rondezia Belton, 33, from Buffalo, and Brandy Miller, 32, from Rochester.
Relatives were told by a friend of Haskins-Stevens, who was with her, that they both fell to the ground. Someone picked up a friend, but no one picked up Haskins-Stevens.
LeFlore has seen videos of people falling on top of each other and jumping over people. A friend told LeFlore that people fell on top of her daughter and the friend heard her scream, “I can’t breathe.”
“More than 6,000 people and all these people trampled on my daughter’s head,” she said.
“These people were standing around filming the scene, but my daughter was lying there and dying,” she said, crying. “No one took her.
LeFlore is angry for many reasons.
“My daughter’s life could have been saved,” she said. “Aisha’s death, a wrongful death, will be justified.”
Saving other lives
For a time, Haskins-Stevens worked as an administrative assistant in the orthopedic unit and in the neonatal intensive care unit, according to her mother. She received her nursing degree, but told her mother that she did not want to be in charge of saving lives.
After all, she saved lives. She donated her organs.
The family and hospital staff lined up in the hallway for the traditional walk of honor as she was wheeled into the operating room.
In the video, Washington can be seen kissing his sister for the last time.
“Whoever gets her heart will get a good heart,” she said.
Staff Writer Riley Kirk covers breaking news, crime and public safety. Have a tip, story idea, photo, question or comment? Contact her at 315-396-5961, tweet @kirk_rylee or [email protected].
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