Editor's Note: Samantha Flynn, 21, is an Omaha college student pursuing a career in law enforcement. Her career choice grew out of her passion to serve the community after losing her mother in the 2007 Von Maur shooting and living through the 2011 Millard South High School shooting. The World-Herald asked Flynn to share her story.

Today is my mom's birthday. Her name was Beverly Flynn, and she was one of eight innocent people killed in the Von Maur shooting in December 2007. She would have been 56.

It's hard not having my mom here, but I'm thankful for the people I do have with me. My dad Patrick has always kept our family — my two sisters and I — close. Even though we are all super-busy, we make time to get together at least once a month. Family is so important.

The loss of my mother is easier to deal with as each year passes. I focus on all of the good things her life has brought to me instead of dwelling on her death.

Coping with grief is a lot easier when you focus on remembering the person who died and celebrating that life rather than focusing on what you've lost.

That's why today we are remembering a woman who was so loving, carefree and full of life.

Each year on my mom's birthday I'll visit her or wear orange, her favorite color. Tonight some friends and I are going to make one of my mom's favorite meals (enchiladas), take a shot of Patron (her favorite tequila) and go out dancing (she loved to dance).

Whenever I hear "Dust In The Wind" by Kansas or a Rob Thomas song, I think about her. Or if I see roses or a Chevy Silverado — that's what she drove — I am reminded that she is with me and always will be.

'MY TURN TO PROTECT THEM'

Samantha Flynn talks about her career choice at Omaha.com/metro.

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I was just 13 when she died.

I remember it being so hectic.

I could comprehend what happened but not why. We had a ton of people in our house and lots of food being delivered from families and businesses that had donated it. The phone didn't stop ringing for weeks. I talked on the phone with Larry King from CNN.

I remember feeling sadness, anger, grief, frustration, but most of all — love. There were so many people around who cared about and loved our family and that's one thing that will always stand out. Our community is truly amazing.

That was the same way the community responded when I was a junior at Millard South High School and a student opened fire, killing an assistant principal and wounding two other staff members before killing himself. I was in gym class when the school went into lockdown, so we moved into a locker room. Everyone was shaken up. You never think something like this can happen to you. What's weird is that my dad, who works for UPS, usually delivers packages to the school around the time the shooting occurred. For whatever reason, he didn't have a package that day.

These tragedies made me realize that the phrase "terrible things happen to the best people" is so true.

Living through both of these difficult times has made me more appreciative of the days we have. I also feel like I am a more loving person because I know firsthand that you never know who you could lose.

I have to thank my mother for instilling that strength in me. While she may not physically be here with us, I feel her presence every day and she continues to inspire me.

Everyone tells me, "Your mother would be so proud of you!" I hope that through having a successful life, a good career, and being able to provide for my family, I will make her proud.

I still go back to Von Maur often to shop — probably too much. I definitely inherited a shopping addiction from my mom, who worked at the department store part-time. Even though something tragic happened there, I have so many wonderful memories of shopping with my mom at Von Maur that I still enjoy being there.

I know that there can be triumph after tragedy, and I am hoping to share that with others by becoming a police officer. A career in law enforcement kind of clicked for me during my second semester of my freshman year in college. I loved my sociology in law enforcement class, so I decided to go for it. Now I am a senior studying criminal justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

I've always appreciated how the community came together to support my family and all of the other affected families after both shootings.

I've always enjoyed giving back and helping others, so I figured this would be a fulfilling career. I can do work that will benefit the community that was there for me.

It's my way of saying thank you to everyone who was there and contributed something after my mom died. You were there for me, and now it's my turn to be there for you.

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