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Family remembers thruway crash victim

Updated: Friday, June 6 2014, 05:39 PM EDT

by Jane Flasch

Rochester, N.Y. -- "She just glowed with joy inside of her," said Deb McDonald's brother Mike Lanzone.

He was remembering his little sister, and showed off photos of a girl with a glorious smile, despite losing her mother at the age of 16.

"Family was such an integral part of us growing up, and she wanted to make sure because my mom wasn't there to keep us together," he recalled.

In an instant Friday, everything changed. While driving on the Thruway, McDonald's car veered left, crossed into the median and into the oncoming lanes. It was struck by a truck. There was no indication she ever touched the brakes.

Her three brothers struggle with questions. 

"Sometimes there's really not an answer," McDonald's brother John said. "So you look at who she was and honor her through that and do your best to move on."

Several years ago, Debbie's three brothers moved to Pennsylvania. Since that time, she has forged a life in Rochester raising her daughter, Alissa, and touching people's lives through her work at Heritage Christian Services.

Her calling hours and memorial service drew hundreds. 

"We were proud of her," said youngest brother, Dave. "But seeing the amount of people that have come out and said, 'You have no idea her smile' has changed my life."

"It was incredibly, incredibly touching to see what an impact she had," added Mike.

Six-year-old Alissa survived the crash with cuts and bruises. Now she will grow up the same way her mother did, without the mother who adored her. 

"I think we feel for Alissa because we've all lost our mom," said Dave.

"I think only time will make it easier," added John. "But it's knowing that she didn't live her life in vain, that her life has made a difference even though it's tragically short."

The family wanted to thank the first responders who cared for Alissa. Family friends are raising money for her college fund through the website You Caring.

Here is a link to the fundraising page:


Family remembers thruway crash victim

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