The Long Beach High School class of 2013, family members and friends gathered for commencement exercises on Sunday at Veterans Field behind Long Beach Middle School. The ceremony usually takes place in the high school gym, but it is still not fully operational eight months after Hurricane Sandy.
That didn’t stop the crowd from applauding 299 graduates’ accomplishments on a warm summer day. The bleachers were filled to capacity as proud family members waited for the high school wind ensemble to strike up “Pomp and Circumstance.” Cheers erupted as the seniors made their way down the field, preceded by school board members, administrators and teachers, all in ceremonial graduation robes.
“This class of 2013 is unique in comparison to prior graduating classes due to the tragic event that disrupted our school year, homes and lives — Superstorm Sandy,” Valedictorian Jennifer Nash told her fellow graduates.
Just two weeks after the storm, thousands of students in the Long Beach School District who weren’t displaced or contending with damaged homes returned to school. School officials decided to reopen after two weeks of planning and locating evacuated families and students.
The three buildings that sustained the least damage — the Lindell and East schools and the high school — opened first, and all of the district’s students attended classes there for several weeks.
“The accomplishments of the class of 2013 are different from all 89 other classes that have come before them,” Superintendent David Weiss said. “No other seniors have had to do what you have done. Each graduate and each family in Long Beach has stories to tell. But the stories all share one common thread. Despite what befell you and your families, you have reached this milestone that we recognize today. The theme of perseverance will be central as you recount these stories in years to come — the idea that when faced with challenges, we can work through them and come out on the other side.”
Nash, who will attend Holy Cross in the fall, said in her speech that the storm’s destruction failed to “break the foundation of this community,” and cited its “constant resilience.”