Tree to honor memory of young meningitis victim

Tree to honor memory of young meningitis victim

Posted: Updated: Oct 30, 2012 06:02 PM
Samuel McLeod, 9, died September 28 from a non-contagious form of bacterial meningitis. Samuel McLeod, 9, died September 28 from a non-contagious form of bacterial meningitis.
MT. JULIET, Tenn. -

Students at a local elementary school deal with the death of one of their own.

Nine year old Sam McLeod unexpectedly passed away at the end of September.

Teachers, classmates and family members gathered at West Elementary in Mount Juliet Tuesday afternoon to honor his memory.

The blazing Autumn maple tree is Sam McLeod's tree.

It sits in the middle of West Elementary School's playground, a few of its signature red leaves still hanging on.

"It makes me smile," said Amanda Lussier, Sam's teacher, "It makes me think of him. I think of him all the time when I walk in my room, but now I can think of him outside, as well, and it makes my heart smile."

Sam's sudden death at the end of September hit the school's community hard, especially his friends.

"When I heard that he passed away, I almost fell because it hurt my heart so bad," classmate George Salamy told Nashville's News 2.

Principal Becky Siever, added, "It is all of our nightmares and it's every parent's nightmare. We love all the children at West like our own and we loved Sam just like our own."

Siever told Nashville's News 2 what happened to Sam brought their community closer together, which is why they wanted to do something more permanent in his honor.

Both the tree and the plaque were donated from members of the community to the school.

The quote on the plaque "You've got a friend in me" is from one of Sam's favorite movies, Toy Story.

Lussier said Sam was always quoting movies, "He was always happy, he always had a story. If I didn't know what he was talking about, he was quoting from a movie, so I'd have to ask him, Sam what are you talking about? And he'd tell me the movie he was talking about."

As Sam's tree grows, new students will play here and enjoy shade on a hot summer day.

It will also be a place for reflection and memories, something the school hopes can last forever.

Lussier said, "I think it's kind of a way to move on. You can see it, you can think about it, you can also move forward."

Sam is survived by his parents and 14 year old brother.

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