SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — There are heavy hearts in the community as a tragic anniversary approaches. Lincoln High School teacher Annie Lanning died during the derecho that struck Sioux Falls a year ago. Now Lanning’s family is reflecting upon the impact she had on them, as well as her students.
Any forecast calling for severe weather is now a trigger of tragedy for Brian Pearson.
“The days we get the big gusts of wind and stuff like that we pretty much stay inside. It’s kind of developed a phobia for us,” Pearson said.
Pearson was with his wife Annie Lanning as the derecho swept through their neighborhood a year ago.
“I was probably six-foot away when the tree came down,” Pearson said.
Pearson went out of his house to greet Annie who had just driven home with dinner for the family.
“I went out to grab it so she wouldn’t have to walk around the house with it and a big gust of wind came out and blew everything right out of my hand and the next thing I know, I heard a pop and the sidewalk is raising out of the ground and the tree went over next to me,” Pearson said.
Pearson’s wife of 15 years was pinned underneath the tree.
“I knew there was no way she was going to live through that. And it took so much time to get rescue people there. She was probably under that tree for three hours or so because there were so many emergency crews that were busy and it took some massive equipment to remove that tree,” Pearson said.
But Annie’s family is able to move on from that tragedy by focusing on the many lives she touched.
“Everyone was her best friend and they’re like I was Annie’s best friend. I was Annie’s best friend. I was Annie’s best friend. And I’m like, wow! She was so inclusive and made everyone feel so important,” sister Shawna Peterson said.
Annie worked with students who were behind in their studies. Now, a scholarship in her memory will allow some of those students to pursue their education after they graduate from Lincoln.
“She went out of her way to make everybody feel welcome and make everyone feel included in her classroom and just everywhere all around. She brought such a light everywhere and she still is through these scholarships, which is amazing,” niece Claudia Peterson said.
On this anniversary of Annie’s death, her family says they’ll focus on the uplifting way she lived her life rather than dwelling upon how she left them.
“Oh, we miss her every day,” Peterson said.
“Yeah. She’s definitely, I often feel her smiling down upon us. But yeah, we sure miss her,” Claudia Peterson said.
Brian Pearson says he and his son may spend some time tomorrow visiting Good Earth State Park which he says was a favorite spot of Annie’s.