West, Tx (CNN) — Weeks after an explosion rocked their city, the graduating class of West High School came together to commemorate their next step.
Graduates are often told that Graduation Day is the first day of the rest of their lives, but in West, that day truly came in April.
Fifteen people died when the West fertilizer plant exploded just a few blocks north of the high school. The class of 2013 spent the final few weeks of school in another building, in another town, getting another kind of education.
"Oh, sure. Over the last six or seven weeks the life lessons they've learned will probably go further than any sixth-grade spelling test," said Wayne Leek, Principle of West High School.
Their senior year became a year of loss and a year of gains, a new appreciation of life.
"It's awful and beautiful at the same time, because you really get to grow even closer then you already are, and most of us have been here 12 years straight." said Chris Taylor, Senior Class President.
One graduating senior worked at the nursing home that was destroyed, he wore a remembrance on his cap.
"The last few weeks have been tough and the hard times aren't over, but fertilizer makes flowers."
Their graduation had to mention what went wrong in 2013 but really focused on what the students did right.
"They stepped up and led by example. It makes you proud."
The seniors walked across the stage with wisdom, they had rallied around their community, they had stayed strong, and they had grown up.
Life changed this night, but this change was good.