New to York, 12-year-old Sharee couldn't figure out why everyone at church kept calling her "Michaela."
She hadn't yet met the girl with the pretty singing voice who everyone assumed was her twin.
"Even her parents confused us," said Sharee McFadden, now an adult, as she recalled the beginning of her friendship with Michaela Breeland.
The two became fast friends, sticking together even as life got complicated. Breeland was a shoulder for McFadden to cry on during breakups with boys. She held McFadden's hand as she battled depression.
"I don't know how I would have come out and what I would have done if I didn't have her there," McFadden said. "It's been hard without her, knowing she's not here. I still feel her presence."
Breeland died in November after falling from the window of a three-story home in York City. Police and friends believe the 25-year-old mother of two had been trying to get inside her boyfriend's home, something she'd occasionally do by climbing to an upper-story window if the doors were locked.
Nearly a year later, Breeland's friends are still struggling to cope with her death.
"I think everybody's just kind of still in shock," said Marisa Shockley-Wilson, a longtime friend and co-worker. "We're just adjusting to losing her."
There's no satisfying explanation for what happened, and closure has been tough to come by, McFadden said.
"We're all just praying for peace. We know that where she's at is way better," McFadden said. "She's watching us."
Sisterhood: Breeland, who would have turned 26 in July, was part of a group of women who call themselves the YaYa Sisterhood, a name that comes from a 2002 book and movie. Since Breeland's death, the sisterhood has honored her memory by founding a Girl Scout-like program for city girls.
Now they've planned a fundraiser to help her family purchase a stone marker for Breeland's grave at Susquehanna Memorial Gardens off Chestnut Hill Road. They're hoping to raise $3,000.
The event will feature performances by poets, dancers and musicians. It's scheduled to begin around 6 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 24, at Crispus Attucks, 605 S. Duke St. Admission is $3, and it's open to the public.
After losing Breeland, McFadden said she's learned to value the intimacy of friendship.
"We need to know each other," she said. "Oh, man, I miss that girl."
How to help
What: Fundraiser to purchase a stone marker for where Michaela Breeland, a 25-year-old York City woman who died in November, is buried
Where: Crispus Attucks, 605 S. Duke St., York
When: 6 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 24
Details: Admission costs $3. All proceeds go to purchasing a marker.
- Erin James may also be reached at email@example.com.