You’re not going to find anything tougher than a Georgia-bred girl. And that goes double for Alyssa Calhoun from Newnan. This fourteen-year-old was strong as roofing tacks. She could man a shotgun, bait a hook, and skin a buck from neck to nub, all while wearing hair ribbons.

Most often, when Alyssa wasn’t busy with schoolwork, she was fishing, hunting squirrel, or riding four-wheelers. Or spending time with Kendall.

Kendall, Alyssa’s five-year-old sister, was her best friend. The two were thick as thieves. According to Alyssa’s aunt, they were “joined at the hip.” They did everything together.

A few weeks ago, the girls swam the banks of the Chattahoochee River — a spot where the water is shallow and the current is weak. The only problem is, Coweta County has had a lot of rain in the past month. Meaning: the water isn’t shallow, and the current isn’t weak.

In a matter of moments, little Kendall lost her floating foam noodle and went under. It didn’t take a millisecond for Alyssa to tear out after her. She plunged through the current. When she reached Kendall, she swam beneath to hold her sister above her own head.

A witness said, “They just drifted off together… trying to gasp for air, and then they both ended up being face down in the water.”

A park ranger tried CPR on the two girls, then rushed them to the nearest hospital. Little Kendall was in bad shape, but alive. Alyssa was already gone.

A few days ago, the Calhoun family laid their girl in the ground. And since they couldn’t afford a proper funeral, the whole community tossed their pennies together for a decent one. In case you’re wondering, they collected twelve thousand dollars in nine days.

I understand it was a fine service.

And it sure as sugar ought to have been. Because it took two whole seconds for this fourteen-year-old to decide to lay down her life — maybe not even that long.

This morning, she rests in the Senoia City Cemetery, in a casket purchased by her hometown. Her baby sister still doesn’t know where her best friend ran off to. Or when she’ll be back.

Alyssa might not make the headlines, Coweta County girls seldom do. But if you’ve ever wanted to see what real love looks like.

You just did.

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