Joplin HS Seniors Celebrate First Graduating Class Since Tornado

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JOPLIN, MO (KPLR)-- At the direction of his mother to “smile,” Joplin High School Senior Jimmy Wenthe , posed for a photo in his burgundy cap and gown in front of the brick sign that used to welcome students to Joplin High School, which now is a block long pile of rubble..

“It’s a ghost or a shell of what it once was, like a fallen warrior or something like that,” Wenthe said.

On May 22, 2011, the deadliest tornado in 50 years came down from the sky, as one weatherman put it, “like a fist,” killing more than 150 people and destroying thousands of buildings including Joplin High School.

The following weekend, the President came to town to see what happened.

Monday night, he came back to talk about the future, as the featured speaker at graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2012.

“I think there is a lot of excitement even though we could dwell on what happened a year ago, but we are all excited to be graduating but that will definitely be in the back of our minds today,” said senior Shelby Greninger.

It’s no secret that politically speaking, Joplin is not exactly a stronghold for the president.

But many students are trying to see past those differences.

“It shouldn’t matter your political opinions with the president coming to speak to us, 20 years from now it is not going to matter who it was it was the president of the United States came to speak at your graduation,” said senior Josh Banwart.

“The president being here means so much to the students, just letting them know that the nation cares about them, it is not just the surrounding community,” said teacher Dustin Prince.

On Tuesday, residents will participate in a “Walk of Unity,’ retracing the path of the tornado, ending with a minute of silence at 5:41 p.m., the exact time the tornado first touched down.

Tuesday’s anniversary will also include a groundbreaking for the new Joplin High School.

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