Students and teachers at Oak Grove High School remembered the tornado that swept through the area 20 years ago during a service Friday morning.
The F-5 tornado hit on April 8, 1998. It killed 32 people and destroyed more than 1,000 homes. Oak Grove School was leveled by the storm.
Courtney Gardner, who teaches history at Oak Grove High School, was eight years old when the tornado hit.
“Even in third grade, I remember standing there looking at the school and thinking, ‘That’s where my classroom was, that’s where my teacher was,'” Gardner said. “And it was gone. So it’s scary. It definitely leaves a big impression on you. Even to this day just the thought of severe weather, you know, it just it terrifies me.”
Gardner and her classmates had to attend school in trailers behind McAdory High School for the next two years. Construction on the new high school and elementary school wrapped up in 2000. On Friday, pictures and artifacts from the old school will be on display in a hallway at Oak Grove High School.
“I think you always need to remember where you came from because of the community,” Sara Vanderver, a special education teacher at OGHS, said. “It’s important for the students nowadays to remember that without that, this would never be.”
The artifacts bring back memories for Gardner and others who lived through the storm. She remembers long bus rides to McAdory while the new school was being built. It was a difficult time for the community, but she says it drew them closer to one another.
“We’ve always called ourselves a family. Our faculty is a family, our students are a family,” she said. “And it really doesn’t matter where you put us, we were still going to be a family. We were still going to be friends with each other, we were still going to have that community.Eeven though we were separated elementary and high school, we were still a family. And I love that about it. We continued, we carried on like normal, we did the same stuff we would normally do. We played our football games, we played our baseball and softball games. We did everything, we just did it differently, and so we just adapted.”