Joplin 10 years later: Former school principal reflects on devastating tornado

We’re coming up on 10 years since an EF-5 tornado roared through part of Joplin, Missouri.More than 160 people died in a tornado that also caused $2.8 billion in damage. One of the places destroyed was Joplin High School.Sunday, May 22, 2011, marked graduation day at the high school.”We thought it was just going to be a rooftop tornado,” said Dr. Kerry Sachetta, who was the school’s principal at the time. He’s now assistant superintendent of the Joplin School District.Across town from where the graduation was held, the massive tornado was twisting and rocking the high school off the ground.Sachetta said he drove through Joplin trying to get to the high school. When he looked over expecting to see Franklin Technology Center, it was gone.”It was like the scene in the movie, where you go over the hill and see war damage,” Sachetta said. Still dressed in a suit and tie, the principal stood in what was once the high school and heard screams across the street. People searched for loved ones lost in the rubble.”I worked with them for probably an hour and a half. There was a body pulled out of a house right across the street from where we were looking and it was terrible,” Sachetta said.The Joplin School District lost seven students and one staff member that night.Ten years later, Sachetta gave sister station KMBC a tour of a new high school that opened in 2014. The memory of senior Will Norton serves as a reminder of so many lives lost. Just hours after graduating, the tornado sucked Norton out of the vehicle he was riding in with his dad.”That was very tragic. The funerals and the talking to parents, yeah, it was horrible. It was the worst thing,” Sachetta said.Five storm shelters are situated inside this 50,000-square-foot building. It’s enough for students and nearby residents — although no one here ever wants a repeat of that 2011 graduation Sunday.”You look back on it, and you didn’t know anything different. Everybody just did their job that’s what we all did,” Sachetta said.

We’re coming up on 10 years since an EF-5 tornado roared through part of Joplin, Missouri.

More than 160 people died in a tornado that also caused $2.8 billion in damage. One of the places destroyed was Joplin High School.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011, marked graduation day at the high school.

“We thought it was just going to be a rooftop tornado,” said Dr. Kerry Sachetta, who was the school’s principal at the time. He’s now assistant superintendent of the Joplin School District.

Across town from where the graduation was held, the massive tornado was twisting and rocking the high school off the ground.

Sachetta said he drove through Joplin trying to get to the high school. When he looked over expecting to see Franklin Technology Center, it was gone.

“It was like the scene in the movie, where you go over the hill and see war damage,” Sachetta said.

Still dressed in a suit and tie, the principal stood in what was once the high school and heard screams across the street. People searched for loved ones lost in the rubble.

“I worked with them for probably an hour and a half. There was a body pulled out of a house right across the street from where we were looking and it was terrible,” Sachetta said.

The Joplin School District lost seven students and one staff member that night.

Ten years later, Sachetta gave sister station KMBC a tour of a new high school that opened in 2014. The memory of senior Will Norton serves as a reminder of so many lives lost. Just hours after graduating, the tornado sucked Norton out of the vehicle he was riding in with his dad.

“That was very tragic. The funerals and the talking to parents, yeah, it was horrible. It was the worst thing,” Sachetta said.

Five storm shelters are situated inside this 50,000-square-foot building. It’s enough for students and nearby residents — although no one here ever wants a repeat of that 2011 graduation Sunday.

“You look back on it, and you didn’t know anything different. Everybody just did their job that’s what we all did,” Sachetta said.

Contributed by local news sources

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