BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - On Saturday, May 30, a wedding will take place, and Laura Gardner and Brandon Ewing will tie the knot. The couple may have survived the biggest test two years ago.
Ewing and Gardner were dating when Laura was attacked in the parking lot of the Bone and Joint Clinic at 7301 Hennessy Blvd.
Gardner says the suspect, Michael Rushing, pulled his car up alongside her and rolled down his window with a general statement, something like "Can I ask you a question?"
"Obviously in Louisiana you don't blow people off. If you have a question, then I'm gonna try to help you," said Gardner.
She said Rushing shoved a gun in her face and kidnapped her from the parking lot.
Laura said she had never imagined rape would ever touch her life. "I wasn't drinking. It wasn't late at night. It was early morning on a decent side of town. It was the complete opposite of what people expect."
When Rushing was arrested, another case of kidnap and rape of a 14-year-old girl surfaced. Rushing worked a plea deal in 2014.
Gardner said her journey through the criminal justice system revealed rules that didn't fit her case. Recovery came very slowly.
Because of the emotional trauma, she sought out volunteer work that would help her forget her pain. Laura volunteered with the Children's Advocacy Center.
The Advocacy Center is square one when children are removed from abusive and/or negative homes. The Center works feverishly to settle children in a loving environment: either with relatives, foster care or a shelter.
Laura thought of children whose Christmas might not have presents. She asked the Center for names and got twelve children's initials as the Center is very careful with privacy for these children.
While Gardner is shy about revealing what she gives from her heart, the Advocacy Center wrote it clearly in her Power of 9 Nomination:
Gardner especially enjoys handling paperwork and whatever is necessary for the Advocacy Center's Celebrity Waiter event. She was dazzled by the many familiar faces she saw there at Walk-Ons: Mayor Kip Holden and the baseball, basketball and football coaches.
When Laura marries her beau, she becomes the official mom of a 4-year-old precious son who will be their ring-bearer. Daylon is already a happy part of her life.
Gardner already plans to study beyond the psychology degree she just earned. She will pursue a second degree in criminal justice.
Laura says she does not mind going public with her rape experience if it helps others realize you can survive and find happiness again. She would be a prime example of how it's done.