A Tennessee teenager paid tribute to her late mother on her prom night by wearing the same dress her mother wore to her own 1998 prom.
Taylor Branum’s mother, Shirra Branum, was killed in March after a head-on collision that also left the teen's 10-year-old brother severely injured.
Amid the grief and trauma of losing her mother, the 17-year-old wasn’t thinking much about her upcoming prom.
“The weekend after everything happened we were supposed to go prom dress shopping together and of course we couldn’t do that,” Branum told InsideEdition.com.
As the David Crockett High School event approached and people began asking her what she was wearing, Branum realized she needed to give it some thought.
“After everything happened I started thinking, 'Do I really want to just have some dress [for prom] that’s just going to sit in my closet and have no meaning?'" Branum said. “I’d remembered she’d had this dress of hers from her senior year in 1998 and she had it sitting in her closet. I pulled it out and I tried it on. I cried a bit. I know it sounds crazy, but I could feel her with me.”
Branum said the long, black gown was a bit too big so she had it altered for her big night. Her mother had worn the dress when Branum’s dad, Randy, took Shirra to their prom nearly two decades ago.
“He [my dad] loved it," Branum said. "He cried and said I was gorgeous. He wanted me to wear my hair like she had it and everything."
Branum said she couldn’t have made a better decision.
“It just meant so much more to me you know, just having that piece of her," she said. "It made my prom night even better — I swear it did — because you know prom night’s a big night, you want your mom there and I felt like she was there. It helped a lot, dealing with that, coping with it.”
After her mom’s death, Branum said she debated not going to college, despite being offered a full-ride to the University of Tennessee, because she felt her younger siblings — 10 and 14 years old — needed her.
She has since changed her mind, however, because she wants to make her mom proud.
“It was like they need their mom growing up and now their sister is leaving," Branum said. "I had family members tell me they were going to help out big time and step up and be there for them. My mom was so excited when she found out I got accepted to UT and I just felt this is what she would want me to do.”
A manhunt is ongoing for Alan J. Mogollon-Anaya, the man police suspect was driving the vehicle that killed Branum's mother.