Friends and family gathered last night to remember Austin Tanner, 18, a high school student who died after contracting the coronavirus.
Tanner was recovering at his home in Melvindale when his symptoms turned deadly on Tuesday, family members said. They remain under quarantine and can't leave their home, so the community brought a prayer vigil to their front yard last night, remembering Tanner as a bright light who never stopped smiling.
Before his death, Tanner told his own story in a blog where he described tough early days growing up in southwest Detroit with his dad in prison and issues in school, where he was eventually diagnosed as autistic. A resilient spirit shines through.
"I thank my teachers for teaching me," Tanner wrote back in May. "I thank my friends for being there for me. I am not mentioning any friends down here because if I typed every name, this website would crash. All of you need to know that everything will be alright. We will get through this together, I know it’s hard now but look with optimism about the future. If our great grandparents made it through the 1918-1920 Spanish Flu pandemic, we can too. If this world made it through World War 1 and 2, we can too. If America made it through the Vietnam War and the Great Depression, we can too."
His post ends in a heartbreaking way, with Tanner writing, "God still has plans for us in the future, just don’t ever give up and keep on fighting. Until then, stay safe and I have to celebrate my birthday in quarantine."
After he got sick, Tanner, who had a plethora of friends and was his school's homecoming king, wrote about how sick he felt, adding "COVID is NO JOKE." The circumstances surrounding his coronavirus infection are not known, beyond the fact he tested positive on Friday and died a few days later.
According to an online fundraiser, another family member also tested positive. An effort to bring meals and raise money for the family can be seen HERE; Almost $1,500 has been raised so far.
While he was alive, Tanner was a force for good, his school said in a Facebook post.
WDIV said at the vigil, Tanner was remembered "for his faith, his friendliness, his laugh and the effect he had on those around him."
"Our sincere condolences and prayers to the family. Austin truly touched the hearts of everyone that crossed his path. The loss of our Cardinal King will weigh hard on all of us," Melvindale's Tracy Johnson wrote on Facebook.