The Braille Monitor October, 2003
Memorial for Brianna Nelson
by Marc Maurer
On the evening of July 18, 2003, Brianna Nelson, the seven-year-old daughter of Carl and Danelle Nelson, died. She had been on a swimming expedition conducted as part of the training program for blind children operated by BLIND, Incorporated, the training center for blind children and adults established in Minneapolis, Minnesota, by members of the National Federation of the Blind. The blind students were swimming at Lake Calhoun near the lifeguard stand when counselors noticed that Brianna was missing. They sought help immediately, but Brianna was not discovered below the surface of the lake for several minutes. She died at the hospital later that evening.
Joyce Scanlan, director of BLIND, Incorporated, notified the parents of all of the participants in the program of the tragic accident. All of the other students remained for the course of classes, which would continue over the next few weeks.
Brianna was a strong-minded, joyous, enthusiastic person. The positive impact she had on hundreds of people living in many states was commemorated on a bright, sunny morning in late July on the grounds of BLIND, Incorporated. Joyce Scanlan, Carl and Danelle Nelson, along with staff, students, and other members of the Federation planted a Minnesota red bud tree and consecrated the ground around it with a rock garden at its base. A sacred spot is one dedicated to the memory of a spirit which has brought love, generosity, and joy to others and which stands as a living memorial to furthering that spirit. Brianna Nelson possessed such a spirit, and she loved rocks, saying that the smooth ones were girls and the rough ones were boys. Each member of the party assisting at the planting of the tree placed a stone at its base with a memory or a reflection about Brianna Nelson. The Minnesota red bud blossoms each spring and lives in the demanding climate of the north. The tenacity of this plant will carry the spirit of Brianna Nelson into the decades to come.