CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Depayne Middleton-Doctor’s presence was always felt in the church.
“It really meant everything, that was her life, she spent 24/7 in there,” her daughter Hali Doctor said.
Hali and her siblings would join their mother in the church most of the time, but on June 17 2015, Hali didn’t go.
“You definitely have that thought in the back of your mind…what could have happened,” she said.
What happened was a tragedy. A white supremacist entered Emanuel AME church in Charleston and shot and killed nine people, including Hali’s mother.
“When it initially happened, I felt lost. It was weird because everyone around me was crying and I was just like chilling. I guess I was in a frozen state. I guess it didn’t feel like it was real, and I still don’t believe that it was, that it is.”
The days after were rough. Eventually, Hali and her siblings moved from South Carolina to Charlotte. She enrolled at Mallard Creek High School where she found ways to cope with the pain.
“Basketball helps me cope with it,” she said.
Just like her mom who played when she was young, Hali is a natural on the court.
“She’s gifted, she’s got good skills, she’s got good hands, and she’s a strong young lady,” her coach Clarence Johnson said.
Hali’s hard work paid off as she committed to play basketball at the next level.
What’s even more special, is she’ll play at Columbia College. The same school her mother attended.
“It makes me feel like I’m closer to my mom and that she’s proud of me.”
So this Fall, she’ll carry in her mother’s footsteps, and she’ll do it proudly knowing that she’s gone through something no one should ever have to and found a way to move forward.
“A tragedy, doesn’t mean you have to let yourself go and be down all the time, I’m a happy person, all the time, and when people look at me they wouldn’t know that anything like this would happen to me, so my message is … just be happy,” Hali says.