Prom is, of course, a cause for celebration at any high school. But for the students of Joplin, Missouri, the 2012 prom fell almost exactly a year after a tornado ripped through their town and killed 161 people. Last weekend, Joplin's senior class got a chance to celebrate their recovery from a devastating event that took the lives of their fellow students.
Clad in bright gowns and dapper tuxedos, the students walked arm in arm with their dates down a red carpet. Inside the "Once Upon a Time"-themed event, students enjoyed an Aladdin-themed room, an Alice in Wonderland-themed room, and a princess-themed room. The event was also stocked with a soda bar, a henna station, locally-baked cupcakes, and an Arkansas-based Top 40 cover band.
"It is pretty exciting. I feel like a celebrity," student Flannery Gafken told News on 6.
Despite the excitement of the evening's festivities, the seniors did not forget the seven classmates they lost the night of the tornado. Student Matthew Hare's brother, Caley Lantz Hare, would have been a junior this year, but passed away when he was caught driving in the storm.
The night balanced a remembrance of Joplin's past with a positive outlook towards the future. As senior Lydia McAllister told CNN: "I'm a stronger person as a result of what I've been through in the past year."
President Obama will speak at the school's commencement ceremony tonight to honor the town's progress. Obama's words will to the Class of 2012 will be a fitting end to year during which unity has been a key to the community's recovery.
Whatever comes next for the town of Joplin, student Morgan Burnside says: "We are rebuilding. No tornado can take us down."
A school in Wichita, Kansas, also celebrated their prom recently despite a major storm setback. The Trinity Academy High School's 90 students who attended the prom were evacuated to a nearby tornado shelter just 30 minutes into the dance when the storm hit. Thankfully, the party went on -- students moved to the underground bunker, where they all belted out a spirited rendition of "Singing in the Rain."