More than a thousand people came to Woodland Community Church in Bradenton on Friday night for what was billed as an 18th birthday party, a graduation and a wedding reception. They are events Sierra Johnson didn't live to see, but they're also celebrations.
That's what the service was really all about: celebrating a young life. It wasn't an ordinary memorial service, not with the spotlight, the singing and arms lifted to the heavens. This was a celebration in reaction to great loss, the death of a beloved 17-year-old who touched so many lives.
But if the spirit in the room showed anything, it's the glow of a girl so effervescent, she was nicknamed "Bubbles" for the ease in which she lived life.
"Sierra knew how to embody it and effervesce it and embody it," explained her brother Chris Johnson. She died after fighting for days from a hospital bed.
Sierra was on her way to a Christian concert in Orlando when a crash left her body broken, and her friends remembering her through self-recorded videos that she couldn't have known would become part of her eulogy.
"We saw her live life to the fullest and we are blessed by the experience," said her ROTC instructor Charles Thomas.
An experience of great love... and loss.
"I never know something hurt so bad, and as my wife said, I never knew I loved something so much until you lose a child," said her father Kurt Johnson.
The church was filled to capacity, but even more were watching around the country. The entire service was streamed online. A website created in Sierra's honor has already Received more than 10,000 hits (SierraJohnson.org)
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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