Don Damond and Roxie Washington are separated by race, but they are united in the pain of losing a loved one at the hands of the Minneapolis police.
Washington is the mother of George Floyd's 6-year-old daughter, while Damond's fiancée, Justine Ruszczyk, died at 40 when she was shot and killed by a police officer in 2017 after calling 911 to report a possible rape in the alley behind her home.
Damond and Washington sat down with Morgan Chesky on TODAY Tuesday after their emotional meeting in Houston on Monday ahead of Floyd's funeral.
"It's a long road to healing," Damond said.
Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died on May 25 after a white police officer was filmed kneeling on his neck for nearly 9 minutes, sparking protests against police brutality and racial injustice around the world.
"It's big," Washington said about the protests. "It's like people are crying out for a change."
Washington is the mother of Floyd's daughter, Gianna, 6, who was seen in a video that went viral last week in which she is sitting on the shoulders of Floyd's friend, former NBA star Stephen Jackson, when she smiles and spreads her arms, announcing, "Daddy changed the world."
Washington shared the heart-wrenching reason why Gianna did not want to attend her father's memorial service in Minneapolis last week.
"She said, 'Well, is he going to be alive?' And I said, 'I told you your daddy is in heaven now,''' she said. "And she said, 'If he's not alive, then I'm not going.'
"I ask God to give me her pain because I don't want her to feel it. My baby won't see her father again."
"The world wants to put their arms around you Gianna, and so feel that, let that carry you," Damond said.
Seeing Floyd's death brought back Damond's memory of losing Ruszczyk and made him want to reach out to Floyd's family to offer his sympathies.
"There really are two issues converging here, and one is the Minneapolis police and their culture and their use of force, and then there's systemic race and how they abuse that use of force against African American people in that city," Damond said.
Ruszczyk was shot and killed as she approached the squad car of officer Mohamed Noor, who is now serving 12 1/2 years for third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He is believed to be the only officer in Minnesota history convicted of murder for a killing committed while on duty, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
"George and Justine will not die in vain," Damond said. "I believe this is their mission."
Damond and Washington are hopeful that Floyd's death can bring about systemic change in policing in Minneapolis and across the world.
"The change? I want to see police officers be police officers," Washington said. "Do your job, you know? Protect and serve. Not kill.
"I want justice for him to the max. What else can be done? If it can help save another life."