CLEMENTS, Ala. (WHNT) - Back to school! Students at Clements High School were given a heroes' greeting this morning all to say, "Welcome back". This was the first day of classes for Clements students since last week's tornado, but not all of the students were able to return to school today, and some won't be coming back.
Forty-nine students were absent today, including several dozen who lost their homes last week. One student we learned of suffered two broken arms when his parent's apartment was destroyed. Another is in a back brace, she was picked up by the storm as she raced to warn her neighbors of the approaching tornado. After a pep rally, school Superintendent Dr. Tom Sisk met with the seniors to assure them that despite the storm and its aftermath, they would graduate on time.
Surveillance camera footage of the tornado shows it passed dangerously close to the school. A portion of the roof blows into view on the right side of the screen. But today was not so much about what has happened as it was about what is yet to happen. They will finish the school year and they will graduate on-time.
Addressing the seniors, Dr. Tom Sisk, said, "As a senior class, you guys have gone through a lot. Its taken a long time to get where you are today and I don't want your senior year to be anything but positive. But you know we're getting ready to remodel the school, so the school was torn up during your senior year, and then for some reason God decided to tear up the community. But it's going to be alright, we're going to get past it."
For many, today was one of the first steps in getting past what has happened. Students were talking and sharing their experiences. Much of that will go on Friday, also. But on Monday school leaders say there is work left to be done.
During the assembly, Principal Keith Hairrell told the students, "And we're going to expect ya'll to work just as hard as they're going to work and we're going to work. Like he said, ya'll stop walking, we gotta stop. But as long as ya'll continue to keep taking a step forward, we're going to take those steps forward with you."
When asked what he will remember about his senior year, Senior Class President Alec Van Wagnen said, "I'm going to remember how we all came together and how this entire community was able to support each other in a time of need."
We told you last week Limestone County had applied to the state for a waiver to exempt students at Clements and Blue Springs from having to take the state standardized tests for the remainder of the school year. The superintendent told the students today the request has been approved. Dr. Sisk also acknowledged the many students who have volunteered their time out in the community helping to clean-up debris and help other families.