Students are back in class after tornado killed eight

Published March 15, 2007

ENTERPRISE, Ala. - Some had to come in wheelchairs or on crutches, but Enterprise High students resumed classes Wednesday at a temporary site, nearly two weeks after a tornado ripped apart their school and killed eight classmates.

Classes are being held on the campus of Enterprise-Ozark Community College until the school is rebuilt.

Students packed the gym for a moment of silence in remembrance of the eight who died March 1. The silence turned into cheers when they learned their prom would still be held in April and graduation in May.

"I lost three good friends who were in (choir) with me. Honestly, it just made me realize that God's in control and nothing else matters," said Erica Vick, a 15-year-old sophomore.

Between 40 and 50 students were injured when the tornado tore into the brick-and-concrete school March 1. The eight victims were crushed in a hallway under a fallen wall and roof.

Nearly the entire student body of about 1,300 showed up Wednesday, despite their injuries and wrecked homes that forced some to move in with relatives. The head count for the day was about 1,270.

"It's good to be back, but it's just not the same," said 17-year-old Courtney Loose, her mother pushing her in a wheelchair, her injured right leg in a brace.

Assistant Enterprise superintendent Bob Phares said they seemed to be in good spirits: "I sense a great deal of hope."

Donations have come in from schools all across the country, Phares said. Students received donated binders, paper, pencils and pens Wednesday. They also received campus maps, sack lunches and ponchos.

Many of the students and staff members wore navy blue and white ribbons, the school's colors, pinned to shirts.

Dickie Page, a custodian at the high school for 17 years, said the janitorial staff will help push students in wheelchairs from class to class. "It was just like a family," she said. "I'm trying to hold all my tears back."