On May 22, 2011, Joplin, Missouri, was hit by an F-5 tornado. One-third of the town was destroyed in an unprecedented time span for a tornado to stay on the ground.

Included in the destruction were the high school and some elementary schools. Seniors had their prom and graduation – but even so, things were drastically altered. Many lost homes, family, friends.

For three years, everything was different. High school students’ classes were in a mall. Elementary classes took in more students than usual.

How do you have sports or practice with no gym or football field? How do students present a play, the band or choir perform? How are teachers kept employed without buildings? Less than three months after the loss of homes and lives, how do you help students, teachers, staff begin a new school year?

Seniors missing traditions, students dealing with at-home learning, missing friendly contacts, teachers missing interaction with students – you will make to through to the other side. Take joy in small acts of kindness and encouragement. Be that kind and encouraging person.

Do not dwell on what if COVID-19 hadn’t arrived. Don’t let too much time pass before reaching out to friends and family.

I am not the same after all I lost. You and others are not the same due to COVID-19. Do not let the disappointment, frustration, upheaval of COVID-19 keep you from being a positive part of your community.

Keep your hopes and plans – just know the route has changed to get you there.

Diane Parker


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