CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Maya Angelou died at age 86.
The St. Louis native was scheduled to speak at Southeast Missouri State's campus in 1997 at the inauguration for President Dale F. Nitzchke.
People in the Heartland said she inspired them with her work.
"I was deeply saddened to hear of Maya Angelou's passing," said Debra Mitchell-Braxton.
That seems to be the theme of this story: sadness for the loss of a phenomenal woman.
As Maya Angelou said in one poem: "I am a Woman Phenomenally. Phenomenal Woman, that's me."
It's words like those that inspire women like Tamara Zellars Buck at Southeast Missouri State.
"I've been a huge reader so I've known about her all of my life, and the older I got, the more I knew about her story, the more inspired I was by her," said Zellars Buck.
"She had trying times in her life, abuse, rape, but she overcame all those to still be such a phenomenal person in so many walks of life," said Mitchell-Braxton.
"Her poetry 'Phenomenal Woman' I think was one of the most beautiful things she wrote, and was an inspiration to many women giving them made them feel beautiful and empowering," said Zellars Buck.
One woman in East Prairie said Angelou inspired her to become a strong woman, and another in Southern Illinois said she helped her get through depression.
"I think she always encouraged people to be themselves, and to be their best selves," said Jennifer Gray from Book Rack New and Used Books store.
Mitchell-Braxton fights for equal rights and said Angelou also inspired her.
"When she spoke you just stopped to listen," said Mitchell-Braxton.
Listen to Angelou help others find their voice, and not be afraid to use it.
In one of her most popular poems, Angelou writes: "The caged bird sings, with fearful trill, of the things unknown, but longed for still, and his tune is heard, on the distant hill, for the caged bird, sings of freedom."
It's a freedom that people in the heartland have been able to find in the confines of just a few of Angelou's words.