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'It hurts so bad': Loved ones honor aspiring nurse shot, killed in Tampa

Mathis' mother said she was in the wrong place at the wrong time she was shot and killed driving near Julian B. Lane Park.

TAMPA, Fla. — Pink balloons Sunday afternoon filled Julian B. Lane Park in Tampa to honor Savannah Mathis.

"It hurts so bad," said her mother, LaMaria Smith.

Like several attendants at the park, Smith wore a shirt with an image of Savannah's face and the words: "Forever In Our Hearts."

One year ago, Mathis died after she was shot while driving near the park with her sister. Smith said they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Police arrested two suspects, Vakarvery Scott and Alfonso Evans, in connection to her death within the same month. Mathis' sister was also hurt but survived.

Mathis excelled in academics. She had aspirations to be a nurse. In her 21 years of living, her mother said she touched people with her kindness and humility.

"She was so humble. So loving. Put everybody before she put herself and that's what would have made her a good nurse," Smith said.

At Plant High School, Mathis would often sit with the freshman class to make them feel included, her mother recalled.

Since she was killed, her mother has made it a mission to shed light on gun violence. She's become active in community events and reached out to other families who carry the pain of losing a child.

"They're supposed to bury us. We're not supposed to bury them," Smith said.

Credit: 10 Tampa Bay

One year since Mathis was killed, Smith spoke with 10 Tampa Bay on a bench dedicated to her daughter. As she reflects on the difficult year, she said she's thankful for the people who've supported her in her grief.

Smith said she was happy with the event's turnout. It's a reflection of the number of people her daughter touched. 

"It's just good that I raised a kid that touched a lot of people in 21 years," Smith said. "I'm just proud to be her mom."

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