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Teen's loss touches hundreds of people
Tears for a teen
Wendy Bruce hugs her daughter Allyson Burrill while holding up a framed Hinesville Fire Department Explorer T-shirt signed by all the firefighters and given to the family at Tuesday's Lady Tigers soccer game. - photo by By Patty Leon / Coastal Courier
Pink accented the somber mourning clothes at a funeral in Gum Branch Baptist Church Thursday.
It was Danielle Burrill's favorite color so many of the more than 300 people who packed into the church found ways to wear it; a tie, pin or even one pair of shorts.
The 15-year-old died Saturday.
In one corner of the church was a band of blue uniforms, pleats pressed, as Hinesville firefighters stood in honor of one of their youngest.
Burrill was a member of the Hinesville Fire Department's Explorer Troop, co-captain of the junior varsity cheerleading squad at Bradwell Institute, a member of the Gum Branch Baptist Church and a young woman devoted to Christ.
Young and old took turns telling something about her life memorable to them.
"Danielle touched more people in her short life than anyone could ever imagine," her mother said in an email to the Courier.
That was an understatement.
"She was beautiful, yet crazy and I can't picture a time when she wasn't smiling," said one student. "Her smile was infectious," said another.
"She's the only person I know that can sass you and still leave you smiling, firefighter John Haas said, describing how Danielle demonstrated doing a splits routine in the middle of their work kitchen. Haas admitted he had to chastise her for the demonstration.
"If she touched this many people in such a short time, just think how many lives she would have touched if she were still here," he said.
Many started their story the same way, "I didn't know her that well but..." Many ended with, "She had the love of God in her and touched all those around her. She made me a better person because of knowing her."
The family sat quietly listening, laughing and probably longing for an answer.
The cause of her death is still being looked into. Coroner Reginald Pierce said Thursday he had not received the autopsy report.
Whatever the cause, Wendy Bruce, Danielle's mother, hopes the community will respect her family's privacy.
Bruce said she felt overwhelmed at the love and support she has received all week.
On Tuesday she was in the bleachers watching Allyson play for the Lady Tigers soccer squad.
"She is a very strong young lady," Bruce said of Allyson. "She is handing this as best as she can."
During halftime the Hinesville Fire Department presented a framed Explorer T-shirt signed by the firemen to her. Bruce works at the station as a secretary.
"I was almost overwhelmed with all the love I felt at the soccer field and from people who don't even know me," she said. "The whole community has come together. The Fire Department is my extended family and I don't know what I would do without every single one of them."
"As most of the community knows we lost a family member, Tiger soccer coach Greg Cooke said Tuesday after the game. "The Burrills are a Bradwell family and good friends with almost all our players and that struck a chord with the boys and the girls."
The soccer players stood in the corner of the church during the service. Later they spoke on her behalf. Last night they were set to play in her honor against Savannah Christian.
The Rev. Clint Brogdon officiated over the services and all were silent as the procession made its way across the highway for burial. Pallbearers and honorary pallbearers were from the Hinesville Police and Fire departments and the Gum Branch Baptist Church Youth Group.
"Dani's favorite verse in the Bible was, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13)" Brogdon said. "But I think Danielle can be summed up best by Philippians 4:5, which reads, Let your gentleness be known to all."
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