Dana Hannibal was the girl who reached over the classroom aisle to doodle in her classmate’s notebook.
She was the girl who lifted her strong yet delicate hands to her friends’ faces to chase away a wayward strand of hair. Those same hands would shoot straight up in the air, each time a teacher asked a question in class, always equipped with the correct answer.
Dana was generous with her hugs, smiles and words of encouragement — whether it was after beating an opponent in chess, passing in the school hallway or in softball practice, she made sure the people she met knew that they mattered.
More than 700 people packed the Morning Star Community Church on Sunday to share stories about Dana, a 17-year-old Sprague High School student who died Feb. 29.
Fellow students, teammates, coaches, teachers and family laughed through the moisture in their eyes as they shared their favorite memories of the quirky, ambitious and brilliant teen.
Jeff Metzger, a classmate and friend, admired Dana’s intelligence, boundless talent and humility.
The two were both academically advanced and fiercely competitive. When the pair took the SAT as freshmen, Metzger was in high spirits about his score.
Smugly, he asked Dana, “What did you get?” And he soon found out that her score was “way higher” than his.
“She was always there to humble me with all her talents,” he said.
Many other students relayed similar anecdotes, whether they knew her through class, chess, softball or soccer. Her ability to excel in all she did both inspired and frustrated her classmates.
Dana was hilarious through her odd, endearing quirks, friends said. The word they often used was “dorky.”
Softball teammates shared about a time she busted out a pair of silky tuxedo pajamas on an overnight trip. They remember when she was discovered eating an apple core, seeds and all, and told her teammates they were missing out if they weren’t doing the same.
In more solemn moments, friends wished Dana could have seen the love and care others had for her, touching on the haunting question: Could they have prevented her from taking her own life?
Kyrianna Sorensen urged people at the service to give others a reason to live. It was evident from the words shared and the sheer number of people who attended that many people loved Dana, she said, “but did she know that?”
“You never know who’s struggling,” she said. “Be a Dana to everybody you meet. You never know who’s going to need it.”
The Rev. Ken Engelking encouraged those mourning to let go of the questions tinged with regret.
“We wonder if we could’ve changed something,” he said.
Instead of dwelling on the past, Engelking urged people to have faith in God’s grace.
“We can trust God with the life and soul of Dana,” he said.