This is part one of a two-part story. The second part is available here.

(WGHP) — When something bad in life happens, it often feels impossible to look to the future. Rocky Smith knows that well.

“If I could go back to the 19th and change everything, I would,” Smith said. “But since I can’t, I’m thankful that God allowed us to use the tragedy, and he gave us a platform to go around and share how awesome He is and how life goes on.

Smith’s sons Dylan, 17, and Zachary, 14, were shot and killed in Pleasant Garden on Nov. 20, 2011, by their mom and Rocky’s ex-wife, Mary Ann Holder. She also shot and killed their cousins, Hanaleigh Suttles, 8, and Ricky Suttles, 17, and Dylan’s girlfriend Makayla Woods, 15, before turning the gun on herself.

“My knees buckled. But I didn’t go down,” Smith said. “That’s when I honestly feel like God caught me and even said ‘son, you can’t go down now. You got a job to do.'”

Shortly after the children’s services in Dec. 2011, which an estimated 5,000 people attended, Rocky and his wife Gail answered a calling.

“Music was always an outlet for me. If I’m playing music, I’m happy,” Smith said. “People began to call and say ‘would you come share your story?'”

So the Smiths went on the road touring the country in a bus.

“We played in places where there were three people, and we played in places where there were thousands of people,” Smith said. “And we always told the same story: that no matter what you’re facing, God can help you.”

The couple recorded albums, won awards and wrote a hit gospel song inspired by their sons’ murders called “The Plan.”

“I try to use what we’ve been through in life to encourage that person to recognize that where they are will not be the end of that,” Smith said. “Tomorrow is still going to come, and tomorrow’s worth living because they can share their story to help someone else just like I’m sharing my story to help them.”

Smith acknowledges that he will never understand why Holder took the lives of the five children. He never saw any signs and believes something happened overnight that caused her to snap.

It’s why he said he and Gail also use their platform to advocate for the importance of mental health.