Some students from Washington, Illinois went back to school Thursday, November 21, 2013 for the first time since an EF-4 tornado left many of them homeless on Sunday, November 17, 2013.
Just looking at the outside of the Washington Community High School, it’s hard to imagine that for many students inside, their reality is a town with 1,000 homes damaged or destroyed.
“We've got students that have lost everything,” said Dr. James Dunnan, Superintendent of Washington Community High School.
“It was hard to comprehend kind of what just happened the place I lived in for years is gone and a lot of my stuff went with it,” said Freshman Ben Warren, “Everybody kind of wants to get into that normal routine.”
As normally as they could, buses, yellow vest wearing crossing guards helped Washington Community High School students on their first day back to school.
“The kids wanted to come in and they wanted to talk, they wanted to see their friends, they wanted to talk, they wanted to share their stories,” said Dunnan.
“It felt good to to talk to my friends who I hadn't seen since Friday,” said Warren.
“We thought it was really, really important at some point in time that re-entry and that healing process has to start,” said Dunnan.
“They tell us, if you guys need anything, tell us and teachers are always there for support,” added Warren.
According to Dr. Dunnan, 800 of the school’s 1,175 students went to school Thursday. Dunnan estimates 30% of the school’s students homes have significant damage or are destroyed.
“We had students coming up saying my two best friends, their homes were destroyed, this is where they're staying,” said Dunnan.
Getting students to re-focus on their education may be hard,
“It's gonna be really tough,” said Dunnan.
But even just getting students back to school is the first step in getting them past all they have lost.
“This was a good thing, we're glad we came back,” he added.
Washington is divided into five districts. District 50, District 308, and St. Patrick Catholic School reopened on Thursday, November 21, 2013. District 52 will reopen school Monday, November 25, 2013 and District 51 has not scheduled a date to reopen.