MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Tragedy has brought a group of women together. Four people who have lost their loved ones to crime have formed a support group with the help of Disaster and Victim Services International.
Laurie Miller was one of the driving forces behind the group. She lost her mother Zoa White two years ago.
Miller's life has changed forever. Following a crime that shook our area, it's been a challenge for White's family to stay strong through all of the court appearances, meetings with law enforcement and day to day challenges that follow a murder.
White's family said her life is not defined by the crime that took her. And through her daughter's story, family said White is able to do what she did best; help people.
Those who knew her described White as an inspiration. She was a single mom who worked her way up in the real estate business. After White retired, she threw her talents into the political arena working on local campaigns.
All of this makes her daughter Laurie White Miller proud.
"She brought herself up form nothing to be on top of the world and taught me to grow and achieve my goals in life because she achieved hers," said Miller.
Miller said she was most impressed by her mother's heart.
"We had a hurricane, and she sat on her front porch and made signs thanking the power companies that were coming down from other states. She stood on this porch holding signs saying thank you," said Miller.
White's front porch was her peaceful place. Her home on Spring Hill Avenue was her project.
"She did everything herself. She could fix anything, and this is where she spent her time," said Miller
In the blink of an eye, everything changed. White's yard, where she spent long days landscaping, was surrounded by crime scene tape and a shattered window
Mobile police said Carlos Kennedy invaded her home and brutally took her life.
That day in 2010 changed Miller's life forever.
"I was always the youngest and kind of the weakest. But somehow, she built a backbone in me, and I think she knew that before she died. And, I think she knew I could handle it," said Miller.
Not a day goes by Miller doesn't think about her mom.
"Miss her every single day. I do. It's those recipes you are trying to cook that you don't know what did she really put in there, and you want to say, ‘How much did you put in there?' Or you want to redecorate a room, and you want to ask if you should use this color paint or that color paint. Or when your children do something wonderful and you just want to call her and share it. Or last week, when I was sick, and I just wanted some Jell-o," said Miller.
Through the arrest, the court appearances and the countless meetings with law enforcement; Miller has pushed on but the effects of murder linger.
"It can affect your parenting. It affects your job, the way you walk down the street. It just has such a profound effect on so many things," said Miller.
Miller said unless you have lived through murder, it's hard to relate to the pain, anger and grief.
Miller has found strength in others who have been there and hopes to give strength to those that are there now.
"They say God brings you to it; he'll bring you through it, and you really don't have a choice but to get through it. My mother certainly wasn't the first person to be murdered. And unfortunately, she will not be the last so we have to get through it," said Miller.
Miller said her mother never held onto anger. She always found a way to bring out the light which is what Miller intends to do.
"'What are your alternatives?' That's what she would say. ‘What are your alternatives? You can either lie in the road and let them run over you, or you can get up and get out of the way and get on with it," said Miller.
White's accused murderer will go to trial the day after Thanksgiving and Miller's new friends will be there to support her every step of the way.
Thursday, September 20, FOX10 News will introduce you to Janet Baker. Her daughter Mary Allison was murdered in 2009. Later, FOX10 News will speak with the mothers of Brianna Parish and Summer Moody.
This is all leading up to an event sponsored by Disaster and Victim Services and the support group. It's a Day of Remembrance for those who have been taken from their families.
That's happening next Tuesday, September 25, at 7 p.m. at Cathedral Square in Mobile. The entire community is invited to attend.
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