SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — For some storm victims, the devastation extends far beyond property damage to the heart-wrenching loss of life. A Lincoln High School teacher died during the storm when, friends say, a tree fell onto her car. Annie Lanning’s death has left a tragic void in the community as well as among her friends.

Shannon Steffke is having a tough time wrapping her mind around the sudden death of her good friend, Annie Lanning.

“It’s unbelievable that she’s gone, but it’s also unbelievable that this is how it happened; that part still seems very unreal to me,” Steffke said.

Steffke delivered groceries to Lanning’s family this morning.

“There were a lot of hugs and tears and she has a beautiful son who I just can’t imagine the road ahead for him and his dad,” Steffke said.

Steffke had known Lanning for the past ten years and says she was a dedicated teacher who helped struggling students boost their grades.

“She had challenging students who had faced hardships and she never gave up on a single one of them. They were her kids; she kept in touch with them after they graduated,” Steffke said.

Steffke stayed in constant contact with Lanning through the years.

Shannon Steffke with friend Annie Lanning
Shannon Steffke with friend Annie Lanning

“We texted daily. Like literally every day we were on Messenger or text, just talking about dumb things, things we had seen, things our kids said,” Steffke said.

The two had even planned an outing in Sioux Falls next week.

“We were going to go on a nacho tour of Sioux Falls and find all the best nachos in town and we were going to start that on Thursday, so I wish I had seen her sooner,” Steffke said.

Steffke says she wishes she could lean on Lanning’s comforting presence as she grieves the loss of her good friend.

“And I know that the next time something challenging runs around, I’m going to want to pick up the phone and I won’t be able to,” Steffke said.

The Sioux Falls School District had its crisis response team available at Lincoln to help students struggling with Lanning’s death.

Statement from Sioux Falls School District:

“The Sioux Falls School District is deeply saddened by the tragic passing of Lincoln High School teacher Annie Lanning. Ms. Lanning joined the District last August after many years of serving South Dakota students in alternative educational settings. Her commitment, care, and concern made her a champion for all students. We extend our deepest condolences to Annie’s family, friends, and the students who were positively impacted by her life’s work.”