Graduating Class Changed by Ohio Tornado

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Meteorologists have estimated that deadly tornado which killed five people in Ohio last weekend was a powerful F4 on the zero-to-five tornado Fujita scale.

The twister not only took lives and destroyed homes, it also swept away the high school where the senior class was about to graduate.

Many Wood County, Ohio, residents still can't believe they survived a direct hit by a 400 yard-wide tornado that blasted a 10-mile swath through their county.

"Our house just started shaking, and it just sounded...it was terrible noises, and we just felt the house... blow away," tornado survivor Tracy Lender said.

Her family huddled on a basement couch and prayed as houses all around them were ripped to shreds.

"I just heard a lot of screaming, and I saw no houses," Lender said.

Resident John Roelle almost didn't make it to his basement.

He said, "As I'm going down the steps... the walls... I could feel the walls... or hear and see the walls, I should say, coming down."

Roelle's pool was sucked dry by the tornado's near 175 mile-an-hour winds.

"This swimming pool was completely full of water and the tornado sucked out the water," Roelle said.

"The folks who've lost their homes and loved ones, normalcy is probably not going to return ever, or at least for a long time," Lake Township Police Chief Mark Hummer said.

Nearby, teens explored the remains of the high school where they had been scheduled to graduate last Sunday.

One student said, "I can't believe this is where we were supposed to be graduating. This all just seems so unreal..like a movie scene."

One of the five Ohioans killed by the tornado was the Senior class valedictorian's father.

"She worked so hard to make her family so proud..and it's just destroyed now," graduating senior Katie Everhardt said.

One important discovery made in the rubble was the seniors' diplomas.

It was one happy find in the midst of so much devastating loss, like at the Wood County home where friends prayed after the tornado swept away the lives of a dedicated Christian woman and her four-year-old son.

It has made the graduating seniors so much more grateful for what they still have.

One student said, "This is a perfect example of not taking anything for granted. We lost our school, but so many people lost so much more."  

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