ST. PETERSBURG — Brenda Gordon could hardly move around the packed room of people who wanted to share stories about her daughter.
She listened as they came up to talk about how Brittany Bria Gordon touched their lives. How much they would miss her. How much she gave to them.
Gordon wasn't surprised. And in her head, she was thinking of another story. About how, when her daughter was 6 or 7 years old, she wrote a letter to the tooth fairy.
Dear tooth fairy, Will you please leave the tooth under the bed, and I will return it the next night? P.S. I want to take it to school and share it with my friends.
"That just speaks volumes to who she was. . . . She was just a very giving soul. A very loving and kind woman," Brenda Gordon said in her first public comments about her daughter, an Army intelligence officer killed Oct. 13 in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan. "She just wasn't that way for me, she was that way in all of her life."
Hundreds gathered Thursday at Eckerd College to remember the 24-year-old soldier, who grew up in St. Petersburg.
She was the only daughter of Brenda Gordon and her former husband, Cedric Gordon, St. Petersburg's assistant police chief.
She also is the first female soldier from the area to die in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"Tonight we promise to each other that we will not lose heart," said Doug McMahon, the college's chaplain. "In this place tonight, we search for comfort, strength and love. . . . We are here because we know that hope is born in community."
Giant images of Brittany Gordon were projected on a wall behind him. The 2006 St. Petersburg High graduate was known to family and friends as "Queen Bee."
"She was raised to be bold, independent," said her cousin Rick Scott, 26. "Brittany was a shining light. She was someone I looked up to, even though I was older."
Scott, who grew up in Texas, saw Brittany Gordon on school breaks.
"She made summer feel like Christmas," he said.
Gordon joined the military in 2010 after attending the University of Florida and St. Petersburg College. She worked as an intelligence analyst and was on her first deployment to Afghanistan.
"She had an important job," said Scott, an Army information officer stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
Intelligence analysts track trends and movements of Army targets, Scott said.
Before Brittany Gordon deployed, she and Scott had a conversation about what war was like. He said he told her it was okay to be afraid, that it was all in God's hands.
"She said, 'I think that's all I needed to hear,' " he said.
Officials have said Gordon was among a group delivering furniture to an intelligence office in eastern Afghanistan when she was attacked. An Afghan intelligence officer wore a suicide vest beneath his uniform and detonated it shortly after the delegation arrived.
"This is not the way it was supposed to be," McMahon told the audience while urging them to hold on to their faith in God's plans. "Now we have to honor her sacrifice and bravery. . . . Stars still shine on stormy nights."
Brenda Gordon said she knows anger is part of the grieving process.
"I haven't gotten to that point yet," she said. "I've just prayed daily. I'm just taking it moment by moment. I'm just trying to stand tall and be strong so that she can be honored in the way she deserves."
Gordon's family will have a wake at 6 p.m. today at St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church, 1301 37th St. S. Her funeral will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at the same church.
Kameel Stanley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8643.