May 20, 2007 in Nation/World

Tornado can’t stop graduation

Roxana Hegeman Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Seniors at Greensburg High School wait to take a class picture Saturday outside a damaged building at the golf course in Greensburg, Kan. The high school was destroyed by a tornado two weeks ago.
(Full-size photo)

GREENSBURG, Kan. – Amid the ruins of their tornado-devastated town, residents celebrated a high school commencement Saturday that mixed tearful memories with pride and promises to rebuild.

Beneath two large tents set up at the town’s golf course, 25 graduates from Greensburg High School claimed their diplomas before a crowd of about 1,500 family members, friends and neighbors. Across town, their school – like 95 percent of the community – lay in rubble from a May 4 tornado that killed 10.

“This commencement is not only touching your lives and that of your parents, your teachers, but is part of the rebirth and rebuilding of your community and has the respectful attention and admiration of millions of Americans,” U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts told graduates. “That is a pretty big deal. Heavy stuff.”

Co-valedictorian Slade Headrick told classmates how he got lost when he first came back to Greensburg after the tornado because all the landmarks were gone. He likened those physical landmarks to life’s guideposts.

“I am proud to be from Greensburg. Our town may not look like it used to be, but it will grow and be bigger and better than it was. … We will build new landmarks,” Headrick said.

U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran urged seniors to commit themselves to using the tornado’s aftermath to motivate themselves.

“Everything you seniors need to know we have learned in Greensburg in the last two weeks,” Moran said. They include things like the importance of family, helping others, showing compassion and that “life does matter.”

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