BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (WLOX) - Twanna Washington describes her son as “very lively,” saying he “enjoyed life, enjoyed being a dad, and was looking forward to starting his new job.”
However, 23-year-old D’Ante Washington would never have the chance to begin his apprenticeship at Ingalls Shipbuilding. In June 2018, his life was taken by a gunman in a Bay St. Louis park.
“It wasn’t supposed to happen that way,” said the man who was convicted of firing the fatal shot that killed D’Ante.
For D’Ante’s mother Twanna, the pain of losing her son is still just as fresh as it was more than two years ago when he was killed.
“Some people say the pain gets easier, but it doesn’t. The more time I have without my son, the more it hurts,” said Twanna.
The grieving mother addressed the court Friday during Simmons’ sentencing hearing, giving a powerful victim impact statement.
“Not only did you take his life, but you robbed him of the opportunity to be with his son, start his new job, and live the life that God blessed him with. You also robbed me of the opportunity to continually enjoy my son. I have to go to a cold grave to tell my son how much I love him. You took a part of me that I will never get back and that has permanently altered my life.”
After her statement, Twanna played the sound of her son’s heartbeat in court for everyone to hear. Because he was an organ donor, someone else now has D’Ante’s heart. After his organs were donated, his mother was given three recordings of his heartbeat.
Twanna had the recording of D’Ante’s heartbeat and a voice recording of him saying, “I love you, Mama!” put into a bear, dressed in clothing made from his as a permanent keepsake of his life.
“This is all I have of my child...is a bear with clothing made of his and it has his voice in it and it has his heartbeat in it,” she said as she showed the bear to Simmons and the courtroom during the sentencing hearing.
Now, the grieving mother is using her pain to fuel a mission to stop gun violence. Twanna said she hopes to educate people on the impacts an act of gun violence has on, not only victims, but perpetrators, too.
“Pick up a book, pick up a trade, you know? Do something with yourself because you’re throwing your life away,” an impassioned Twanna said. “When I was in court with that young man on Friday, I saw the look in his eyes when they sentenced him. He knew that he had thrown his life away. He doesn’t have children or anything. He hasn’t gotten an opportunity to even enjoy life, and now he is going to prison. He threw his life away over something so stupid because he didn’t think. He had a choice and he chose to take someone’s life.”
Twanna hopes the story of her son, a life lost too soon, prevents another family from enduring the same fate.