For Joplin seniors, the road to graduation has been a rough one

JOPLIN, Mo. - "Don't say goodbye, Just say I'll see you," sings the choir class at Joplin High School as seniors get ready to say goodbye to the senior year they never expected.

Yainer Oviedo is getting ready and bracing a bit too because of what happened after leaving graduation last year.

"That was the longest five minutes of my life," he said.

An EF-5 tornado had taken over Joplin. He and his mother finally made it to their home full of siblings as they crowded into a closet. The second oldest of seven, he threw blankets and mattresses on top of his mother, brother and sisters.

He was about to leave again when his mother made him take cover.

"As soon as I got down, all the glass in our house shatters. I look up to see what is going on and I see my roof being pulled off," said Yainer. "I got to the point where I didn't think I was going to live so I was like, telling them goodbye and I was telling them that it was going to be quick and not to think about it and we'll see each other."

Their home was destroyed. The closet where they huddled remained miraculously intact. Yainer spent the night and the rest of the summer helping his family and neighbors put their lives together.

He mourned the loss of his friends as well, including 18-year-old senior Will Norton.

But somehow, his own senior year had to start even though Joplin High School was decimated.

"It has been really difficult to get him to concentrate and get his assignments turned in and everything," said his mother, Laura Pina, through tears. "I know his heart is there but his mind has not let him be completely there and let him enjoy his senior year the way you're supposed to enjoy your senior year."

But Yainer will graduate and with big plans. He hopes to go to medical school and help people across the world through Doctors Without Borders.

He hopes to own a practice in Joplin some day. But before any of that, he'll earn a diploma and knowing the President of the United States will be there seems to Yainer to be yet another miracle. Right after Obama won the election almost four years ago, Yainer got a Chicago Tribune featuring the President. He has treasured it since and that paper was one of the only belongings to survive the tornado.

Yainer hopes he'll be able to have President Obama sign his newspaper at graduation.

His mother and the rest of his family just look forward to marking a chapter the tornado made them question whether or not they would ever get to start.

"I didn't graduate, so seeing my kids graduate is one of my dreams to see them walk across that aisle," Pina said.

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