May 23rd, 2011
08:42 PM ET

New graduates face devastation after Missouri tornado

Joplin, Missouri (CNN) - Like nearly every high school senior who has ever donned a cap and gown, Scott Lauridsen was excited.

Finally, after four years at Joplin High School, it was time to go. Graduate. Celebrate. Step up to the next stage of his young life.

"I was excited - ready to start things new and move onto college and experience life and then all this happened," said Lauridsen, 18, one day after the deadliest American twister on record ripped through his hometown of Joplin, Missouri.

And now?

"Now I'm just worried about helping out with the community and getting things back together," he said.

A recent graduate's joy: Another casualty of Sunday's terrible tornado.

Lauridsen was one of about 450 seniors to receive a diploma from Joplin High School this year. Their graduation ceremony at a local university wrapped up just as the storm started to roll in.

Students filtered out of the gymnasium and onto an open lawn as proud parents, family and friends snapped pictures - smiling graduates against a backdrop of darkening skies. A light rain began to fall and people rushed to their cars.

Aaron Frost, another graduate, left with his girlfriend. They were headed to a restaurant to meet his family when Frost, 18, got a call from his mother.

"She pretty much demanded that we pulled over," he said. "I would have drove right into the storm. My mom pretty much saved me there."

Frost and his girlfriend ducked into a Fast Trip convenience store and took cover, along with about 18 other people, inside a walk-in cooler.

"You can't really do anything," he said. "We just bent over and covered our heads."

A piece of glass struck Frost's hand but otherwise he is fine. The store and his car were not as lucky.

Later, Frost went by his old school, where the roof was ripped off and debris was strewn across the lawn.

Kerry Sachetta, principal at Joplin High School, described the damage as "terrible."


Filed under: 360° Radar • Weather
soundoff (One Response)
  1. Cynthia

    The store clerk that had the people get in the cooler store room. From the I phone video. He's name is Ruben Carter, he lives in Scotland, Missouri. Just east of Joplin off 7th street.

    May 23, 2011 at 11:57 pm |