Johannesburg – Marli Currie, 14, had an infectious smile which lit up every room she entered.
It was this grin that managed to provide some sort of consolation to those grieving her death at her Vanderbijlpark funeral on Friday.
Her trademark smile greeted the scores of people who attended the service at NG Suid-Gemeente as her portrait was placed around the church.
As her parents, siblings, family, friends, teachers, classmates and community members glanced at it, they were reminded of her amiable nature.
The teenager was one of four Hoërskool Driehoek pupils killed last week when a concrete slab on a bridge collapsed on them.
About 20 more students sustained injuries that ranged from minor to serious during what was described as a "freak accident".
Pastor Frank Thomson, who delivered the acknowledgement at the Grade 9 student’s funeral, reassured all those who packed the church to attend the service that they were well within their rights to be angry at the fact a young, innocent girl’s life was cut tragically short.
“Nothing makes sense. This is the biggest tragedy that could happen," he said. “God knows that we don’t understand.”
But he encouraged them to have faith and reminded them of Currie’s outstanding qualities.
“Marli always had a smile on her face and was a good student who was loved by all those who knew her.”
Thomson’s words were met by sobs, including her classmates’, who came out in their numbers and wore full school uniform to attend their friend’s funeral.
Their soft cries penetrated the room during the moment of silence and during the singing of hymns.
Alongside Currie’s portrait were white candles and several bunches of pink and purple balloons.
Her family encouraged people to inscribe messages on the balloons.
Following the emotional service, the sound of Christina Perri’s A Thousand Years blasted through speakers placed on the stairs.
There, the teenager’s loved ones sent the balloons into the blue sky as a handful of white doves were released from cages into the air.
This sentimental moment was met with uncontrollable tears as Currie’s parents and siblings found it difficult to contain their emotions.
Her classmates also cried loudly and consolled each other as the balloons slowly floated up into the air.
Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga also attended the funeral.
She told a media gathering outside the Vaal church that a parent losing a child was one of the worst things that could ever happen.
“I’m sure there no pain for a parent which goes beyond losing a child,” the minister said.
“I think it is the worst thing for a parent, especially at her age. She was in her prime, at her best, beautiful and innocent.”
She described the school’s bridge collapse as a freak accident.
“It was a school that was well built, but unfortunately there were structural problems,” said Motshekga.
“It is not typical infrastructure challenges that we are facing, like at schools where there is no infrastructure.
"There were some technical problems with the structure.”