Brittanie's death sparked discussions about the safety measures taken to protect fans at sporting events and raised questions about legal liability when spectators are injured or killed (box, page 63) But to the residents of West Alexandria, those issues mattered far less than the loss of one of their own. "You feel tragedies like this even more deeply in a community as close as this one," says Deleranko. "This is a small town, but it's a big family."
That family will remember Brittanie's enthusiasm most of all. "I don't think I ever saw her in a bad mood," says Tara Milliken, 13, one of her soccer teammates and closest friends. "She had so much excitement in her that she was always ready to let it out." But Brittanie also had a toughness that matched her ebullience. When she injured her left arm during a soccer game last fall, she was heartbroken when Deleranko ordered her to come out of the game. X-rays later showed that she'd broken the arm. "Our next game was two days later," says Deleranko, "and there she was on the sideline, yelling her heart out and supporting the team."
Brittanie loved to play soccer, even in the rain or the mud or in the kind of frigid weather that hit West Alex the day of her funeral. It was an early spring afternoon, but it still felt like winter. As they left the chapel, some of the mourners turned up the collars of their coats to block the biting wind. There was a chill running through them, and they needed to picture Brittanie as her teammates often saw her, running and smiling and having fun, so that her spirit could warm them.