Jordan Herr is a broadcast journalism student at MU who was born and raised in Joplin.
On May 21, my younger brother graduated from Joplin High School.
I expected how chaotic Joplin would be with President Obama and Gov. Nixon traveling to speak at the commencement, and I was right. I expected that parts of town would be completely blocked off to accommodate Secret Service, police escorts and the media. I expected that my family and I would have to be at the ceremony at least three hours in advance just to guarantee us enough time to get through the doors.
But I wasn’t there to see our president or governor speak or to be a part of the publicity, although I consider that quite the honor for the class of 2012.
I was there to see my brother.
I was there to celebrate his walking across that stage to receive a much-deserved diploma. I was there to support and to show how proud I am that he graduated at the top of his class with an academic scholarship to Baylor University.
I couldn’t help but remember how it felt to sit where he sat just two years ago when I graduated from Joplin High with the class of 2010. I’m sure that in many ways we shared the same feelings about the close friendships we had made and the excitement we had about the future.
But the reality is that my class was the last to pass through completely unaffected by the tornado.
The disaster completely changed the lives of this class. They were forced to deal with the loss of everything that was familiar to them as seniors. They were forced to recognize true pain and suffering.
To me, the overwhelming feeling of sadness felt at times during graduation was inescapable because of what had been lost in the past year. But there was also an even more overwhelming feeling of joy, a different kind of joy. At my commencement, the community solely celebrated the graduation of my class. At my brother’s, the community was there to celebrate not only his graduation, but the recovery of Joplin.
The class of 2012 will forever be a symbol of resilience and hope for my community and for the world. I have faith that with every passing year, Joplin will continue to grow and to heal.
I wish all the best and more for my brother and the rest of his class. They have proven to be more courageous, selfless, grateful and stronger than any other the history of my hometown. I know that as they continue down the path of life, none of them will ever take anything or anyone for granted, and that they will overcome any obstacle thrown at them simply because they are from Joplin.
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