WHAT OTHERS SAY: A tribute to the Joplin High School class of 2011

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 | 10:27 a.m. CDT

It's a sentiment that's been missing for 12 weeks, but we don't think it's too late to express it today. Congratulations, Joplin High School class of 2011.

We were there to hear your graduation speeches, watch as you received your diplomas and photographed the celebration of your academic accomplishment.

But, we never got a chance to publish any of it. Now, we can.

We have spent the summer following several graduates and exploring the impact the May 22 tornado has had on them. It's an understatement to say that it claimed far more than just a graduation party.

College and career plans have been put on hold as the 2011 graduates help their families put their lives back in order. In fact, many of the graduates told us they felt they had to be strong for their parents. They want to help their neighbors and their communities.

We salute them for their fierce loyalty to their town, but we also encourage these very special graduates to pursue their individual lives and dreams. This tornado, which robbed them of classmate Will Norton, should not rob them of their futures.

Real life, as one graduate put it, started in earnest 30 minutes after the ceremony was over.

"The last time we were all together (at graduation) we were on top of the world," graduate Keegan Tinney said. "They always told us after graduation the real world sucked; I didn't think it would only take 30 minutes for reality to set in."

We can't help but wonder how much the May 22 tornado has directly or indirectly changed the lives of the graduates. Our hope is that it has forged a bond to each other and to their community.

Our very best wishes to the class of 2011. You will be remembered for your accomplishments, your humor and your style.

You will also be remembered for your strength in the face of terrible adversity. In our view, you passed with flying colors.

Copyright Joplin Globe. Courtesy of the Associated Press.

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