'We are going to move forward'
by Jennifer Cohron
May 10, 2011 | 3803 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
On Monday, the students of Cordova High School returned to class for the first time since a massive tornado destroyed much of the town, killing four people. - file photo
On Monday, the students of Cordova High School returned to class for the first time since a massive tornado destroyed much of the town, killing four people. - file photo
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CORDOVA -- Cordova High School students went back to class on Monday, and Principal Kathy Vintson was glad to see them.

"I am personally so thankful to have each and every one of you back, even those of you who spend way too much time in the office," Vintson said during a short mid-morning assembly program.

Although no current CHS students, faculty or staff members lost their lives in an April 27 tornado, Vintson said the community had been dealt a "great blow."

She added that returning to school was an important step toward reestablishing normalcy, especially for students whose lives have been disrupted by the storm.

Vintson assured the student body that they will be a part of helping their hometown rebuild and become bigger and better than it was before the tornado.

"We are going to cry over our losses. We're never going to forget, but we are going to move forward in a positive way," Vintson said.

Vintson then introduced guest speaker Jennifer Smith, who presented the students with a piece of art to remind them that negative situations can have positive outcomes.

Smith commended the teenagers for rallying to help their neighbors in the first hours after the tornado.

She said that their efforts reminded her of how her 10-year-old daughter, Brylee, responded to being diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder last fall.

Brylee founded her own non-profit, Bry's Art Rewards Kids (B.A.R.K.). Proceeds from the sale of her paintings have been used to help patients at Children's Hospital as well as local children.

The painting that Smith presented to CHS on behalf of B.A.R.K. was created recently from trees that fell in her family's yard during last month's tornado.

"Display this wherever you like, and every time you go by it, I hope you remember that you can make something beautiful out of devastation," Smith said.

Smith added that similar pieces of B.A.R.K. woodwork, which Brylee is making with help from residents at Walker County Outreach, will be sold to help pay for fun activities for children who were affected by the tornado.

Vintson said she thought it was appropriate that Cordova's painting includes both an angel and a Blue Devil, the school mascot.

"That's how we all are sometimes -- a devil with angel's wings," she said.

Vintson also praised the students for how quickly and diligently they went to work so soon after their town had been devastated.

"I am so proud of you. There are no words to express what amazing kids you are, and it is an absolute honor for me to be your principal," she said.