BRUNSWICK, Ga. — On Nov. 24, 2021, the world stopped, watched and listened for a just few minutes in front of the Glynn County courthouse.
Dozens of people huddled up and listened to the verdict for the three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery. Every time they heard 'guilty', people cheered, cried and hugged each other.
The following day was the first Thanksgiving after Arbery's killers,Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael and William 'Roddie' Bryan, were found guilty for their roles in the 25-year-old's death. All three are serving life sentences in prison. Thea Brooks, one of Arbery's aunts, constantly asks herself 'what if?'.
"What would've been different about this Thanksgiving if Ahmaud was here? What joke would he have told? How many 'I love yous' would he have given out? Would he be close to getting married? Would he be engaged?" Brooks asked aloud.
Brooks said her life after the convictions were spent healing and learning to cope. She said she's still processing because "healing doesn't have a deadline." Brooks expressed how her emotions were "all over the place."
"It's like a two-year cycle," Brooks explained. "Two years ago, Ahmaud was gone. Since the two years my mom is gone. So, it's been rough."
Despite her losses, Brooks said she still has much to be thankful for - including her nephew's life and how his death was a catalyst for change in Brunswick and beyond.
Arbery's aunt said she started a non-profit organization to assist families who have experienced an injustice. Brooks said Ahmaud put her in a different light in her life. Her nephew's life lives on through her service.
"I never saw myself here," Brooks said. "But you never know who are you until things start happening around you."