President Obama Speaks At Joplin's High School Graduation

Monday, May 21st 2012, 11:35 pm
By: News 9

President Obama visited Joplin to deliver the commencement address at the town's high school.

President Obama didn't have to look far for the motivation behind his commencement address for Joplin high school's class of 2012.

Joplin Tornado Timeline

"The job of a commencement speaker - aside from keeping it short and sweet - is to inspire. But as I look out at this class, and across this city, what's clear is that you're the source of inspiration today. To me. To this state. To this country," President Obama said during his speech.

It was May 22, 2011 when a half-mile wide Ef-5 tornado struck. When it was over, 7500 buildings were damaged or destroyed. And 161 people were dead, including Quinton Anderson's parents.

Quinton Anderson and his parents were in their home, which took a direct hit from the tornado. He was found across the street with a broken back. When he woke up in the hospital three days later, his sister was telling him their parents were killed.

"I'm one of those people that doesn't cry when people are around, so when I was alone at nights, I would cry," Anderson said.

Joplin cried, too. But in the months since that day, the town has begun rebuilding what was lost. New homes that can withstand 250 mile-an-hour winds are going up, and the high school, which is now a pile of rubble, was relocated to a strip mall.

5/21/2012 Related Story: Joplin High School Seniors To Graduate On Eve Of Tornado Anniversary

And it's not just the landscape that's forever changed.

"You don't really realize how much your parents do for you until they're not here anymore," Anderson said.

For Anderson and his classmates, some of life's hardest challenges may be already behind them.