‘Night of Celebration’ in memory of Pleasant Garden shooting victims

JAMESTOWN, N.C. — Music and prayers filled Bales Wesleyan Church Saturday night for a “Night of Celebration,” honoring two young boys who were shot and killed by their mother nearly a year ago.

On November 20th, 2011, Pleasant Garden mother Mary Ann Holder shot her two teenage sons, Zach and Dylan Smith, and her nieces and nephew Ricky and Hannahleigh Suttles and Makayla Woods. Holder then took her own life.

Zach and Dylan’s father, musician Rocky Smith, says Saturday’s Celebration was to remember his sons’ lives and love of music.

“When we got down to the house,” Rocky remembered, “Dylan had my CD in his CD player. So they were proud of their Dad. They knew their Dad loved them.”

“So now this is what I do,” Rocky said, referring to playing music and traveling the country to share his tragic story and spread faith of his recovery.

Rocky worked with his wife Gail to form their ministry, strongly rooted in their Christian beliefs.

“We miss the boys every day. We’re never going to be the family that we were, but we try to be the best family we can be,” Gail said.

Holder also left behind a daughter, Christina, who says this tragedy has made her a better mother.

“I definitely don’t take any days for granted with them,” Christina said as her two young toddlers climbed into her lap.

With another baby on the way, 21-year-old Christina misses her mother every day.

“I don’t have any answers. But forgiveness is hard because I love my Mom. But that person, that was a different person. I haven’t forgiven that person,” Christina said, referring to her mother on the day of the murder.

Gail still remembers preparing for the children’s funeral.

“I stood in the kitchen and ironed clothes for five children, and I thought no one should ever have to do this. Ever.”

While moments of that tragic day still haunt them all, Saturday it was the sound of music that helped them all smile and remember Zach, Dylan, Ricky, Hannahleigh and Makayla for how they lived rather than how they died.

“Without God you couldn’t make it. We couldn’t make it a day without the strength of the good Lord,” Rocky said.

Gail added, “There’s a lot going on in the world today, and I think we need to just put things in perspective.”

Rocky said the five children’s deaths saved 23 other lives through organ donation, and dozens more were helped through organ and tissue donations.

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