Brannock, who grew up in Ellicott City and Bowie, is a teacher at the Trinity Episcopal Children's Center in Towson. She completed her undergraduate degree from Towson University in 2008 and is completing her master's degree in early childhood education.
Brannock and Gross are Mount Hebron High School graduates.
"She's just an awesome teacher," Downing said. "The kids are always quoting Ms. Brannock to their parents."
Liz Harlan, former director at Trinity Episcopal Children's Center and founder of Davenport Preschool in Hampton, said Brannock was going to teach at that school when it opens this fall.
Brannock is "so outgoing and so loving, she knew every single student and every single parent that was in that building for four years," Harlan said, adding, "She is everyone's teacher and everyone's friend."
Harlan said that since she emailed former parents from the children's center and future Davenport parents Tuesday morning, she has received hundreds of emails from people wondering what assistance they could offer. "It is such a family," Harlan said.
Stoneleigh resident Brian Dulay, whose 2-year-old son Griffin is in Brannock's children's center class, co-taught by Lorraine Robertson, said Brannock reminded them at Friday afternoon's pick-up that she would be out Monday because she was "going to see Mom run."
Dulay said Brannock is uncommonly caring, and "blessed with an innate ability" to connect with people.
"Most people in schools care, but she has a remarkable talent to spend her days reaching 2-year-olds, then she can relate to working parents in the evening," Dulay said. "She's chosen the right profession."
He said the school provided a normal arrival for students Tuesday morning, which he found "comforting" as the community tries to make sense of the bombing.
"The grace in this event for me is that here's this giving person who does so much for my son," Dulay said. "She and her family, now they get a world-renowned medical community ready to give back to them."
Nicole Gross was a star swimmer at Mount Hebron. she finished as the overall top scorer in the Howard County meet in 1996, 1997 and 1998, according to her athlete's profile at the University of Tennessee, where she went on to swim the breaststroke and the individual medley from 2000 to 2003.
Downing said Nicole Gross helped her train for the marathon.
Her coach at Tennessee, Dan Colella, who now coaches at Duke University, said Tuesday that he was "devastated" to hear the news of her injuries in the Boston attack.
Nicole Gross was "an absolutely terrific young lady and was always someone that we thoroughly enjoyed having as a member of the team, was a great athlete and a great team member," Colella said, adding that she was equally committed to academics and her friends.
Nicole Gross, who listed Michael Phelps as her biggest sports influence in her Tennessee profile, works with people on triathlon and swimming exercises, according to the website for the Charlotte Athletic Club. If she could have one superpower, the site says, it "would be the healing touch."
"It absolutely doesn't surprise me that she's involved in fitness to this day," Colella said. "She was one that always enjoyed working out and challenges, and I can see where she's someone who can really help and inspire others in that area."
Her husband, Michael Gross, who turns 33 next month, was also a Tennessee swimmer, competing in the backstroke and freestyle from 1998 to 2002. He is from Sparta, N.J., where he was a two-time state champion in the 100 meter backstroke, according to his university profile.
A Charlotte Athletic Club employee said on Tuesday that staff would not comment out of respect for the family.
The Rev. Ken Saunders, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Towson, said the church updated members of its parish and school community via email.
Before teaching at the children's center, Brannock worked her way through Towson University at Graul's Market in Hereford.
The store's manager, Ken Bullen, said he spoke with Brannock's mother Tuesday morning, and Brannock was in the store earlier this month.
"I've got girls in the deli who are barely holding it together," Bullen said. "They've worked right beside her and they're devastated, as we all are. It's a terrible tragedy for many, many people."
A parent from the children's center set up a prayer vigil for Brannock and her family at 8 p.m. Thursday evening at St. Mark's on the Hill Episcopal Church, at 1620 Reisterstown Road in Pikesville.
Saunders said Trinity Episcopal is planning a vigil as well.
Baltimore Sun reporter Carrie Wells contributed to this article.