Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Danielle Downs


She loved fishing, art projects, musicals, New Orleans and fried pickles. Antonio Banderas was her heartthrob of choice. She ate banana peppers out of the jar.

These are just a few trivial things that made up parts of Danielle Downs, a 24-year-old UA senior who lost her life in the April 27 tornado – but things, nevertheless, that friends and family have missed and remembered every day for the past six months.

“I could never fully explain Danielle’s impact on my life. I’m disappointed I’m not more articulate,” said Debra Graff, Downs’ friend of six years. “I remember she always had a story to tell. She loved bragging on her friends and family – she loved her sister more than anyone.”

When Debbie Burton remembers, she recalls Downs’ warmth and cheerful attitude.

“I miss her smile,” said Burton, a UA employee in program assistant orientation and special programs. “Danielle had a very bubbly and excited personality.”

Burton said she and her family welcomed Danielle into their home after meeting at church. She also remembers Downs’ love for her family – friends included.

“Danielle started attending our church and became a very good friend of my children and our whole family. She called me her second mom,” Burton said. “I remember most her deep love of her mom, dad, sister and cousins. She always looked forward to the times when she could go home and see them.”

Downs, a social work major, was slated to graduate on May 7. Graff said Downs was always an advocate for the underdog and willing to offer a helping hand.

“Danielle had the biggest heart of anyone I had ever met,” she said. “She wouldn’t stand for seeing someone treated badly or unfairly. Danielle wanted to do all she could and would do what she could to help people. That’s why she would have been great at her field.”

When Downs was three years old, her father left to serve in Desert Storm, Burton said. This experience spurred Downs toward a degree in social work to help military families adjust with the deployment of a family member.

“Her career goal was to graduate and move to Eglin Air Force Base to help military families,” Burton said. “I have been told that her last research paper was on the needs and behavior patterns of military children. This was very dear to her heart.”

Despite her focus on education and career, Downs was very much the typical college student as well.

“She was an avid football fan, and was in the student section cheering every chance she got,” Graff said. “She loved just hanging out with her friends, even if we weren’t doing anything, and she loved meeting new people. Danielle could talk to anyone.”

Calling her a “fireball,” Graff said Downs was never afraid to stand up for her beliefs or argue to prove a point.

Graff recounted an encounter on a Mississippi State game day when Downs’ sister visited Tuscaloosa wearing Mississippi State apparel. When people started teasing her sister about her clothes, Downs stood up to defend her.

“She sometimes got herself into arguments with guys twice her size to prove her point,” Graff said. “It shows her protectiveness over her family and friends and her willingness and courage to stand up for what she believed.”

However, even with a friendship worth of memories to choose from, Graff agreed with Burton: Downs’ smile will be missed the most.

“If I had to choose one thing, I miss her smile,” said Graff. “Sometimes it would look as if her eyes were closed because she was smiling so big.”

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