Just two days after a student took a rifle to his high school and shot a classmate to death and injured a teacher before fatally turning the firearm on himself, the school’s senior class has graduated.
Organizers and students tried to make the graduation ceremony for Reynolds High School’s Class of 2014 in Portland, Oregon about anything but Tuesday’s shooting, reported The Oregonian.
“Today is about the class of 2014,” graduate Cole Bronson said before the ceremony. “And we are celebrating that.”
However, the topic was obviously hard to ignore for many, especially when the graduating brother of the student who was killed took the stage to receive his diploma, The Oregonian reported.
Joshua Mitchell, who was identified by school officials to The Oregonian as the older brother of 14-year-old Emilio Hoffman, stood out from the other graduates by sporting his younger brother’s soccer jersey over his gown.
Students and others in the audience reacted with loud applause when gym teacher Todd Risler entered the arena, reported KOIN.com. Risler, whose hip was grazed by one of the bullets, is largely credited with saving many lives during the attack.
Annie Croll, one of the school’s hundreds of graduating seniors, shared some of her thoughts with KATU.com about this week’s tragedy.
“It makes you thankful that you are graduating and that you get to be together with your classmates.”
We’re stronger now than ever, and we just need to realize that everything will be OK,” she said.
Prior to the ceremony’s start, there was a brief moment of silence for Hoffman before the graduates were encouraged by the school’s principal to “celebrate loud, celebrate proud so all can hear. Including Emilio.”