ATLANTA — An Atlanta woman knows all too well the effects of gun violence after losing a loved one this year. The two had just become engaged and were planning their future together.
Aaliyah Strong said her now 5-year-old son called Ty Ross dad, and he raised him like his own child.
“My favorite pictures are these two," Strong said as she flipped through an album. “We were at the Aquarium.”
A photo album is full of memories for Strong and her son, who still asks where his dad is.
“'Oh, remember when you, me and dad went there?’ You know like how kids are,’” Strong said of her son.
The memories of Strong's fiancé are extra special because of what happened back in February.
“He was just super friendly, just like a gentle giant, honestly, like just so sweet and loving and charismatic," Strong said. “I remember being at a table and somebody ran to me and told me that he had gotten shot.”
Ross was only 28 years old.
"They rushed him to Grady," Strong added. "They told us he was stable, but hours later he died."
“I just want everybody to just focus on how he was when he was here and not just focus on how he was killed," Strong said.
Strong took action amid her grief and disbelief of losing her best friend.
“I started my non-profit Tyme to Thrive Beyond Grief, which is a non-profit that advocates, educates and assists victims and survivors of gun violence along with their loved ones," Strong said.
Strong said helping others heal has become therapeutic as she deals with her own loss.
“We don't have a lot of resources here in Atlanta for families and loved ones that have been impacted, so I just took it upon myself to be like, let me be that resource for families to be able to reach out to," Strong said.
The young woman -- now turned into an advocate -- has a message for those involved in gun violence.
“A five-second decision is permanent. You can't take that back. You can't give someone their life back," Strong said. "It's just sad. Like people really need to wake up. We're literally killing each other day by day.”
She holds her fiancé's mementos close to her heart. The matching slippers they wore last Christmas are still in the closet they shared.
“This is the obituary from his funeral," Strong said in her living room.
She deals with the lasting impact of gun violence and keeps a shrine in her apartment.
"I always want to remember. I don’t want to forget," she said.
The young woman remembers the dreams she had of what the couple's future could have been.
“It was a chapter. A very life-changing chapter for me," Strong said.
Tyme to Thrive Beyond Grief helps families through different resources, such as affordable therapy and grief counseling. Violence prevention is another goal. Strong talks to people at risk as well as discussing safety protocols with nightlife businesses.