BALDWIN COUNTY, Ala. (WALA) - Summer Moody's mother is opening up for the first time since her daughter's death . Terri Lewis is part of a support group helping families cope with tragedy.
Moody was only 17 when she died. Her mother said nothing could have prepared her for what she has dealt with in the past five months. Lewis can't talk about the legal aspects of her daughter's death, but hopes her story will help others who have to face the loss of a child.
It's tough to find a picture of Moody without a smile on her face.
"Every picture has this toothy grin. You can see every tooth in her head, and that's kind of what everyone described about her," said Moody.
Lewis said another thing you won't find sorting through her photo albums, a picture of Moody without her hair done.
"She would get dirty with the rest of them mud riding, but her hair was fixed because there might be a picture," said Lewis.
Moody was a star athlete who graduated early from high school. She had big dreams; dreams that were shattered one night in April.
Lewis is a Paramedic. She sees tragedy every day, but now she was living it. Lewis said she was preparing to go out on a call at work when two officers approached her.
"'Do you know Summer Moody?' And I was like 'Well, yeah.' And I'm nowhere near thinking about that. I'm thinking she's safe asleep in bed. Not even processing what was happening at the time. And then all of the sudden, my training or whatever kicked in, and it was all of the sudden that shock of why are they asking me this," said Lewis.
Her little girl was fighting for her life in the hospital.
Investigators said Summer was on Gravine Island with three teens accused of burglary.
They said campers confronted the group and fired warning shots, one of which hit Summer.
"It's hard sometimes to see what we see, and then have to deal with it and live it," said Lewis.
Summer was on life support for more than a week. Lewis treasures that time she got to spend with her daughter.
"She was probably one of the most stubborn of all my children so she was fighting until the very end. I have no doubt and probably fussing at us for touching her cause she was not a very touchy feely person. And we were rubbing her arms and making fun of the fact that she was probably saying, ‘Please stop touching me. Leave me alone.' She was something else, and I'm pretty sure she heard us if not at that particular moment in time but when she left us," said Lewis.
Summer didn't make it through, and her family faced more than just the loss of a child.
"There's tons of media attention. And anytime someone dies of a violent crime or a crime in general, you have, everyone wants to know what's going on. So you have the invasion from every side. You have the police departments, and you have all of the people you have the media all of the people that are making negative comments that know so little about what's actually going on. And you just kind of have to push all of that aside and deal with what's at hand which is grieving for your daughter," said Lewis.
But even in the heat of it, Lewis saw the impact her daughter had. She has shown her classmates and her family that life is precious and can be lost any day.
A lesson that is hard to drive home for teenagers.
"I've had quite a few of them come up to me and say, 'I don't feel invincible any more. I'm scared. I feel like anything could happen tomorrow.' Something as simple as saying, ‘I've made a vow I'm not going to drink or I'm not going to text.' They've started seeing that those things do happen," said Lewis.
Lewis is also making a vow. She's using her experience to help others. She is part of a support group that helps families cope with tragedy.
"No one wants to lose their child. But if your child can impact someone else, it just gives you a little bit of hope that it wasn't for nothing. There's a good that will come out of it eventually," said Lewis.
The wounds are still fresh, and Lewis has to deal with the fact her daughter is gone.
"I'm hoping eventually one day that that gap won't seem so huge. It's always going to be there because she's never going to be there; but I'm hoping it won't be such a huge gap," said Lewis.
They still find ways to connect with the blond-haired, blue-eyed girl that could make just about anyone smile. Her favorite spot was the beach.
"I think the beach probably has an imprint of her," said Lewis.
That's where Lewis goes to be close to Summer.
"It's a place that I come a lot of times if I am just real stressed or nervous or having a bad day especially dealing with everything that's happened since April. I can come down here and sit on the beach and get myself together; and she was kind of the same way," said Lewis.
Summer's funeral is a testament to her life. There wasn't space for even one more person. It shows that Summer will not be remembered for the circumstances of her death but the people she touched in her 17 years.
The support group and Disaster and Victim Services is sponsoring
a "National Day of Remembrance." It's Tuesday at Cathedral Square in Mobile. It starts at 7 p.m.
If you have lost a loved one, they ask you bring a picture to honor them.
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