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2011 graduates look back on the year since the May 22 tornado - KOAM TV 7

2011 graduates look back on the year since the May 22 tornado

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Minutes after graduation the lives of the 2011 Joplin High School graduates were changed forever.

A year after Aaron Frost graduated from Joplin High School, he takes a walk at the new school in the mall and reflects back to May 22, 2011.

"My girlfriend and I pulled into the Fast Trip that's at 20th and Duquesne, the one that's all over YouTube, and that's where we were during the tornado," Frost told us.

Fellow graduate Vivien Moreno was also near that intersection, in her car.

"It was pretty shocking because up until 10 minutes before everything looked fine, everything looked the same, then all of the sudden houses were gone, there was debris everywhere, a lot of people were hurt," says Moreno.

"Will Norton was obviously lost, Lance Hair was a kid that was two years younger than me," says Frost.

For Frost, Moreno, and the rest of the Class of 2011, experiencing something so traumatic such as the tornado has not only taught them to grow up quickly, but to appreciate the small things in life.

"It kind of tells me you can't take everything for granted," says Moreno.  "You can grow up somewhere and then all of the sudden it can change so you have to be grateful for what you had and cherish the memories that you had."

While one school is under demolition and the other is full of students waiting for summer, the memories of what is now nicknamed "Hope High School" carry on.

"I wrote my time capsule so people 50 years from now can look at it and say 'this is what the students went through and what the kids from the graduation were thinking about, a year after,'" says Moreno.

Remembering the past, yet pushing forward through the future is a bit of advice the class of 2011 graduates will pass down for generations to come.

"The rebuild is absolutely incredible," says Frost.  "Right off the start I had heard that it'll be 10 years before Joplin is really back, and driving down Range Line you can already tell that so much, that the will and the strength of our town is just incredible.  I'm so proud to be able to say that I'm from Joplin and I get to be involved in something as great as the rebuild of Joplin."

Several time capsules are scheduled to be buried during the Walk of Unity on May 22nd.  And those letters from the Joplin High School graduates will be in one of them.

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