It's human nature to glorify the dead, to accentuate their virtues and gloss over their shortcomings.
Nicole Gallo's family and friends - including the mayor of Upper Darby - didn't have to do that yesterday.
The truth worked just fine in describing to a Delaware County judge how the 19-year-old's death at the hands of an intoxicated driver had devastated their community.
Gallo, a bright-eyed Lebanon Valley College student from Westbrook Park, "loved deeply and laughed often," said her mother, Donna Gallo.
"She often jumped for joy just because she could," she said.
The medal-winning high hurdler for Archbishop Prendergast High School was the type of person who would give you the shirt off her back. In fact, she once did just that, lending her jacket to a girl on a cold day, according to one of the 95 victim-impact letters sent to Judge Gregory Mallon.
"I wish I knew her. I've never read anything so nice as what these people have said about her," said Mallon, who was amazed at "how a child impacted the lives of so many people."
Mallon sentenced Rachael Jankins, 20, of Havertown, to 4 1/2 to 10 years in prison, followed by six years' probation, after she pleaded guilty yesterday to vehicular homicide and aggravated assault while driving under the influence.
Toxicology reports show that Jankins had marijuana and difluoroethane - an ingredient in compressed air that is inhaled to get high - in her blood Aug. 14, when she veered off Lansdowne Avenue and struck Gallo, killing her instantly. Gallo's friend Christine Bochanski, of Lans-downe, was seriously injured.
"There's not a moment that I don't think about the pain that I've caused everyone," said Jankins, who wore gray jeans and black high-top sneakers to court. "Saying sorry will never be enough. I can never forgive myself."
Jankins' parents sat in the audience, occasionally dabbing their eyes. They looked shell-shocked during the heart-wrenching testimony from Gallo's and Bochanski's supporters. At the conclusion of the hearing, Jankins was led away in handcuffs.
"I have never seen a more tragic case than this one," said Jankins' attorney, Brian McMonagle.
Donna Gallo said that her daughter, had she survived, probably would have forgiven Jankins, "but I am not Nicole; I and do not forgive you.