The tornado of March 2nd, 2012 swept through the little town of Henryville, Indiana like an unleashed monster intent on destroying everything in its path. For the class of 2012, the destruction of their school seemed almost surreal. My own daughter, a senior at Henryville this year, first made sure here friends and the teachers were okay and then began to ask the questions that gnawed at the back of each and every senior student’s mind.
- Will we still be able to have a senior trip?
- Are they going to split our class up? Will I have to go to another school and graduate with people I don’t know?
- Are we even going to have a prom?
- Will we be able to finish the work and graduate in time? I have college! I have plans!
In the midst of all this uncertainty was a sense of guilt for even worrying about those things. After all, they’d come through with their lives and without losing a single student or faculty member.
Like Dominoes, Things Fall Into Place
Thanks to the efforts of thousands of people around the country and local to Henryville, things began to fall into place. As people worked together to begin to clean up and rebuild what once was, news came that the senior trip would go on as planned. Money for snacks had been lost as it was in a desk that was blown away by the storm, but it was fine because people stepped up and donated snacks. A bowling alley invited the seniors to a fun night on them and Fox News interviewed them. The trip went on as planned and good memories were made.
Next, the kids needed to get back to school. Temporary trailers were too expensive. The principal was determined to keep the students together. Finally, two locations were found. A church donated space for the elementary and the junior and senior high school would go to a building in nearby Scottsburg. It was small and there were times when the classrooms were cramped and stifling, but the kids worked together, the staff worked together and somehow got through the last few months of school.
It would go on and people were generously donating space, supplies, catering, tanning for the girls, dresses, you name it. But here things took another turn. Lady Antebellum was having a contest to come sing at someone’s prom. We would later find out that schools all over the country began to withdraw their submissions for the contest and request that Lady A go to Henryville’s prom. A few schools, including Henryville’s biggest rival school, submitted videos to the contest on Henryville’s behalf. Lady A announced they would come do an event for the kids.
Senior awards night was May 23rd. At first, it seemed like any other typical awards night. People were called up. They received awards. It was great to see the kids recognized. Then, as the senior video began playing these young adults began to clap and holler for one another. They were expressing joy in getting through 12 years, even this last difficult few months, and ending a successful high school career.
Principal Troy Albert then stepped up to the podium to close the assembly. He mentioned that each student would get a blanket, donated by a parent, and a brick from the original building that was devastated. More than just a symbolic brick, however, were the words Albert added to his announcements.
He indicated that the brick signifies something far greater than a piece of a building. It is a symbol of how when people work together, they can achieve anything. They can help a town recover. They can rebuild a school. I hope that the students really listened to the what he said about the brick and took it to heart.
When they look at that symbol, I hope they remember how many people from all over the country reached out to help their small town and offer a lifeline when it was needed most. I hope they pass this on when they see a similar need in the future. It is my belief that the difficult times Henryville’s class of 2012 faced will shape them into people who will create a positive force like the world has never seen. The next five to ten years should tell us more. At the very least, they’ve learned about resilience and pushing through even when you feel like giving up.