Students at West Marion Elementary are remembering one of their fellow classmates after she lost her life in November.
Hannah Noelle Bright, 11, passed away on Monday, Nov. 27 after a long life of struggle and sickness. Hannah was disabled and blind due to a condition called septo-optic dysplasia, a rare congenital syndrome which affects the optic nerves and brain function and causes other issues.
“She has been disabled her whole life,” Hannah’s mother Leslie Bright told The McDowell News. “That caused her to get sick very easily, and this time she just got really sick and went down really quick. It’s a medical condition that causes a lot of issues internally and with her immune system, hormones and thyroid. Her body could not fight off sickness. She would get sick very quickly and her body can’t fight it.”
But, even through her struggles, Hannah always had a smile and a hug for everyone she came across.
“She didn’t know a stranger. She exuberated happiness and smiled all the time and loved anyone that would take the time to let her interact and be a part of them,” said Leslie.
Hannah was a student at West Marion Elementary, and when the staff learned of her passing, students came together to remember her in their own way. They created a paw tree in memory of her where students wrote special notes on paw prints -- the school’s mascot is the panther -- and donated $1 to the family. They took the paws and placed them on a tree at the school. The school also created an angel tree because Hannah loved angels so much.
“We talked to the kids about what she liked and what was important to her: singing, church, angels and sparkly stuff. There are tons of sparkly angels,” said West Marion guidance counselor Wendy Gaffigan.
The tree with the notes and money were presented to the family in hopes to help the healing process during the holiday season, and let them know Hannah will not be forgotten at West Marion Elementary.
“It’s really humbling that so many of the children would want to take part and want to show how special Hannah was to them,” said Leslie. “It’s neat to see how one child can be such an influence to so many others. It was her personality; she had such a sweet presence. They said they were immediately drawn to her.”
Hannah loved school, her mother said, especially P.E. and music.
“I think she understood a lot more than she was able to verbalize. She had relationships and connections with her friends, teachers and therapists. Hannah had great rhythm and loved to listen to music,” said Leslie.
Hannah leaves behind her father, two sisters—Emma, 9, and Ava, 6, and an unborn baby brother due in March, and a multitude of other family and friends. With Hannah’s death, her parents have used the opportunity to talk to their other children about how Hannah is in heaven.
“We try to focus on the positive things that she is able to see and able to do. Of course we still grieve over our loss and us missing her, but we really have a lot of peace in knowing where she is and not having to be sick anymore,” said Leslie. “Most of the time, even when she was not sick, she was tough and was used to being so strong all the time. My mom came up with a motto for her: “Fraglie as glass, tough as nails.”