Cathy Rickmon and Martha Bullock had been casual friends for years, but "we weren't close until the tragedy of our sons," Rickmon said.
"We will always have a bond because someone who we loved, that we loved very dearly, was lost on the same day," Bullock said.
Rickmon's 26-year-old son, Orlando "Lanny" Rickmon, was proud to call himself a momma's boy. He was everyone's friend, always laughing and joking around, with special places in his heart for his daughter, his car and his mother's cooking.
"I miss him saying, 'You cooked! You cooked!'" said Rickmon, a cook at Esperanza High School.
Bullock's 22-year-old son, Desmond O'Neal Bell, showed talent at playing football and music early on. He played the trumpet in his school marching bands, and his parents would always march with the band during Mardi Gras parades. Good at school and great with computers, Bell worked at a glass shop at the time of his death but planned to study computer technology in college. He also loved repairing ceiling fans or other electrical things around the house.
"He was my handyman," Bullock said.
In February 2013, Lanny was shot 13 times on Toledano Street but survived after driving himself to the hospital. Doctors said that with the gunshots Lanny received, he was fortunate to have lived.
Two months later, on April 23, Bell planned to meet his mother to take her to a car wash but stopped on Baudin Street first to charge a new phone and visit with friends. That day, still recovering, Lanny asked his mom to make him one of his favorite dishes: Italian chicken.
Rickmon was cooking when she heard the gunshots. "My children are dead; my children are dead," Rickmon recalls saying as she ran through the house.
Bullock was working when she got a phone call that her son had been shot. When she arrived at Baudin Street, police officers stopped her at the crime-scene tape and told her that her son had been shot and taken to the hospital. Bullock immediately went to Rickmon's house and started praying, not realizing her son had already died.
"You always hear about what other families go through, but you never think you will," Bullock said. "You never think that you will be a statistic, and now I am."
"I hear about it on TV, but I never thought it would hit me," Rickmon said.
The day of Bell's funeral, Bullock screamed and cried for two hours before being able to view her son. She still has never been able bring herself to read an autopsy or police report.
"I am not strong enough to know how he suffered," Bullock said. "I don't know if I ever will."
Bullock and Rickmon began talking several times a day after their sons were killed. When Bullock found out about the Helping Mothers Heal group early this summer, she and Rickmon decided to go together.
"We mourn in our own way during the week, but when we meet together on Thursday, we heal," Bullock said. For her, the key to moving forward lies in helping others in the same situation.
"Sometimes we mothers don't know what our kids are into, but I know for a fact that my son wasn't into any violent activity," Bullock said. "I still don't know why he is dead or not here. Every black child with dreads is not a gang member. That's just their style. They shouldn't be stereotyped by dreads. ... It was our kids on April 23, but it could be your kids the next time."