SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - A Shreveport mother who lost three of her children drowning in the Red River three years ago has struggled with a fear of water since that fateful day, but her mission to make sure others can swim continues.
But it's Maude Warner's mission to make sure others know how to swim.
Her sons Jamarcus and JaTavious, and daughter Takeitha, were among the six children that drowned in the Red River in August 2010. They were 14, 17 and 13.
It happened when her 15-year-old nephew DeKendrick Warner slipped off a ledge into deeper water. Six teens went into the water to try to help him. None of them could swim.
"The sand gave way and just took them under," she recalls, as she watched helplessly from the banks of the river. An adult was able to throw a life-vest to DeKendrick. He survived. The others did not.
"It's unbearable pain. There is not a day go by I don't think about my kids I wish they were here."
She's had to move forward with life, and her three remaining children. A year after the drownings, her then 9-year-old son told her he wanted to swim. "I didn't understand why he wanted to get in after what happened," she recalls.
Rock Solid CEO Shelley McMillian helps manage swim lessons and lifeguards at the city's pools. She remembers convincing Warner to let her son swim. "All I could do was assure her that we will put the best of the best one-on-on with him and we will, for as long as it takes, as long as we run pools, do what it takes to teach your entire family how to swim."
Warner agreed to let her son take swimming lessons, but she couldn't watch. "I dropped him off and left." Now, her son is a strong swimmer. Her 13-year-old daughter took lessons and knows how to swim, too. But getting Maude Warner into the water herself won't be easy. For the past three years, she has said "no" to swim lessons. Even a bubble bath stresses her out. She will only take showers. But in an interview with KSLA News 12's Domonique Benn on Wednesday, Warner took one small step toward facing her fear. "You can do it with me," she told Benn. "You don't want to do it by yourself," responded Benn. "You can do it with me," Warner repeated.
Domonique has agreed to join Warner in the water. She says she is a little rusty herself, so this will be a refresher course for her. Swim instructors are looking over the swim schedule, and KSLA News 12 will follow their progress.