Cheris Moore is talking about life without Kimbra.
Kimbra was Moore’s 8-year-old daughter, killed early Sept. 4 when a stray bullet pierced her bedroom wall and struck her in the head as she slept, hours before she would have worn her pink backpack to Enterprise Elementary.
Outside Moore’s new, temporary home, she sits with her back against a shaded wall, sheltered from a gusty wind. At times, her weary eyes stare into the distance.
Moore keeps her other children, 6-year-old William and 4-year-old Ginnifer, close to her. At first they sit quietly beside their mother, sipping from pop cans. They begin to fidget, and eventually she lets them play on a sidewalk nearby. But she keeps glancing at them, making sure they are OK, calling them back. After what happened to Kimbra, the 31-year-old mother takes nothing for granted.
It’s been almost two weeks since the gunfire killed Kimbra, around 3 a.m. on the Tuesday after Labor Day. Police said that Zachary Gaston, 24, who has been charged with first-degree murder in Kimbra’s death, was firing at a stolen car fleeing down a gravel road off South Broadway — a narrow passage tightly lined with mobile homes, many occupied by children. Another bullet grazed a woman in the head in a home near Kimbra’s.
“You keep thinking, ‘I’m going to wake up. It’s just a bad dream. This can’t be real,’ ” Moore says. “You see this stuff on TV. You don’t think … that it would come through your home. You think home is your spot, that it’s safe.”
She and her children have moved out of the trailer park where it happened, and in a way it bothers Moore.
“It makes me think that I’ve left her.”
But she couldn’t stay there with her two other children. “I don’t want to lose them, too,” she said.
“Right now, I sleep with them.”
On a recent night, she woke up four times, “hoping she was there.”
When the bullet struck Kimbra, she was asleep in a bed with her younger brother and sister. The children were in the biggest bedroom. They liked to sleep together.
Kimbra’s siblings wouldn’t make a move without her, Moore says. Now, without his big sister, William doesn’t want to go to school.
Moore remembers the minute Kimbra was born: 11:59 a.m.
“She was my everything.”
‘She was gone’
She has heard people say that her child’s death is part of “God’s plan.”
To Moore, it doesn’t make sense. “Why would God take away a baby he gave you, when you prayed to heaven? It can’t be God’s doing,” she says, with tears.
For now, she’s keeping everything that belonged to Kimbra. The purple and pink bike that Kimbra left on a kickstand outside her home. Kimbra’s robe. “Still smells like her,” Moore says.
In the swirl of action after the shooting that morning, Moore remembers yanking her other children out of the bed as she screamed.
Police wouldn’t let her back into the bedroom. They told her that paramedics needed to tend to her daughter.
“When they just came right out, I knew she was gone,” she says.
Police later told her that Kimbra died instantly from her head wound.
They had lived there since February. They had been planning to move. They would have been out three to four days after the shooting.
Comforting her children
The grieving mother sees a theme, and she emphasizes it: “You always think you have another day. You never think in a billion years that your child would be taken in their sleep.”
As Moore finishes the sentence, 4-year-old Ginnifer is running back toward her mother and falls, striking the smooth concrete face down, hands down. Splat. The girl raises her head, looks at her mother and begins to sob. Her mother picks her up, holds her in her lap. They pull up her long shorts and see pinhead-size beads of blood forming on her knee.
“I know it hurts so bad,” her mother says, “but it’ll be OK.”
Moore’s mind shifts back to the shooting. “Why would anyone want to shoot a gun in our neighborhood?”
A neighbor told her: “It could have been any of us.”
“Why us?” Moore says.
Now, when she puts her children to bed, they cry a little. Moore tries to comfort them, saying: “Ask Kimbra to meet you at your favorite place.”
“I just want them to be able to sleep and feel safe again. That’s why they’ve been sleeping with me.”
In 2011, the family car crashed, and Moore suffered a serious injury to her hand. Kimbra had only a bruise on her leg and a scratch on her neck from the safety belt, Moore says.
After surviving that, she says, “I just don’t understand why that bullet had to come through the house. I’ll probably never understand.”
Her mind returns to the theme. “I’d give up everything just for a couple of minutes to tell her we love her. … I’d give up everything just to (get) a couple more minutes.”
Kimbra was a ‘gabber’
For two days before the shooting, Moore had given up smoking. “Kimbra was so proud,” Moore says.
Now, after all that has happened, Moore is smoking again.
She spoke at her daughter’s funeral. “I just wanted everybody to know how amazing she was.”
She describes her daughter as a “gabber” — she wouldn’t stop talking. She was part tomboy. She taught herself to ride a bike. She had the neatest handwriting and liked to read. She wore a big bow in her hair, whether it matched her clothes or not. She was excited that she was going to get braces. She told her mother she wanted to see Egypt and Rome. She was fascinated by gladiators and wanted to visit the Coliseum.
“She said, ‘Momma, I’m going to see things when I grow up.’ ”
William, sitting near his mother, interjects: “But she can’t see them now.”
Moore relates how she looked into her daughter’s casket.
“I swear I saw her eyes flutter. I swear I saw her chest move.”
“Did she really move?” her son asks.
“No, honey, she’s in heaven.”
Moore says in her mind she hears Kimbra telling her: “It will be all right, Momma.”
“It’s like, how do you move forward? She can’t move forward with you. She’s stuck at 8.”
She buried Kimbra dressed in her favorite pair of Converse shoes and a new dress.
‘I miss her’
She has questions about the man charged with firing the shot that killed her daughter. If he is the man who fired the gun, she says, “How the heck did a felon get a gun?” Gaston, the man charged in her daughter’s death, had been convicted of methamphetamine possession.
Whoever fired the shot, she says, “I don’t want him to die. I just want him to realize the pain he gave to us.
“I wish people would think, think … before you do something stupid. Don’t just pull a gun out and shoot somebody.
“When you shoot somebody, that’s forever.
“I miss her,” Moore says.
“I miss her.”