OKLAHOMA CITY — Southmoore High’s Senior Class President Sarah Zubair said three things distinguish her graduating class — endurance, commitment and spirit.
Graduation at the Cox Convention Center on Saturday afternoon was a a time of laughter through tears, triumph over tragedy. Moore graduations went on as planned this weekend despite that a tornado nearly ripped the town in two and Southmoore grads seemed determined not to be kept down by Monday’s tragic events.
Alyson Costilla had to graduate without her mother, Terri Long, 49, in the audience. Long was a victim of the tornado. The mother and daughter were recognized during the commencement ceremony.
Despite the sorrow, it was clear it takes a lot to get a SaberCat down.
Principal Roy Smith said 92-percent of the 413 Southmoore graduates plan to continue their education.
Among the proud parents were Mark and Mandy Hodges, the father and stepmother of graduating Southmoore senior Eleanor Hodges.
“I am the proud papa,” said a grinning Mark Hodges, as his wife showed off a picture on her iPhone of Eleanor smiling in her cap and gown.
The tornado missed the Hodges’ home and Southmoore. Eleanor’s former elementary, Plaza Towers, was destroyed.
Eleanor, known fondly as Ellie to her parents, went out and helped others while power was out and the chaos of aftermath reigned.
“Pretty soon she’ll be going to Puerto Rico where she plans to study aeronautical engineering for NASA,” Mark Hodges said. “I want her to have a good life.”
It was an emotional 2013 commencement.
Bao Ngo, class Salutatorian, asked for a moment of silence for tornado victims.
Southmoore’s Rhythm and Blues group offered up the National Anthem,
Moore Public Schools Superintendent Susan Pierce said she has received love and support from folks all over since the tornado.
“You are being recognized around the world,” Pierce told the graduates, adding that this day they were going to celebrate the “accomplishments and successes” of the Class of ’13, even though their world “had been literally turned upside down.”