Students saddened by loss, unanswered questions after tornado rips through North Central High School

Updated: Jan. 13, 2020 at 7:29 PM EST
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WESTVILLE, S.C. (WIS) - Students of North Central High School walked out of the building last Friday not knowing they would never walk back in.

The National Weather Service said an EF-2 tornado ripped through the Kershaw County high school on Saturday night, with winds in excess of 130 mph.

Those winds ripped the football stadium’s press box off its foundation, leaving it strewn about on the cement stands below. Many of those same cement stands are broken and missing or lying in a twisted pile of rubble.

Seniors are left with many unanswered questions as they wait to find out where graduation will take place. In years past, it has been inside the football stadium, but with major repairs likely necessary, the district is still deciding what to do.

“It’s something that other people will get to have that we didn’t,” senior Aleigha Ross said. “As the class of 2020, it’s sad because we’ve been in the North Central community for so long and it’s definitely something that’s devastated us.”

At the front of the school, the wall of a beloved drama class was missing Monday. Bricks and siding lined the ground near the wall, as rainwater dripped into the classroom in the roof’s absence.

“This just looks like a warzone,” Ross said.

Jared Chavez is another member of the senior class, and said he’ll miss spending time in the school’s band room.

“I spent a lot of time in there and now I never will again,” he said. “I saw some of the classrooms and the hallways and it just doesn’t look like it’s supposed to, so it’s weird.”

As severe weather swept through the Midlands on Saturday night, one school in Kershaw County was hit directly.

The Kershaw County School District announced students will finish out the remainder of the school year at the district’s vocational building.

“Honestly, it’s a little disappointing. I was hoping my last day as a senior I’d get to walk through the hallways and say goodbye without being taken away from it, I guess,” Chavez said. “It’s really shocking, you don’t think these things happen but I am glad our school is going to stay together.”

Ross anticipates things will be chaotic when students return to class Wednesday, but she believes the district is doing its best to turn a bad situation into a good one.

“People struggle with change,” she said. “So it’s going to be interesting.”

Both seniors said one look at the damage inflicted on their school makes them appreciate what they had, when they had it.

“I think it takes something like this to make you appreciate what you have,” Ross said. “I’d just tell underclassmen to not take anything for granted because what you might complain about or think is not good enough doesn’t even compare to something like this.”

The South Carolina State Guard said it has around 20 men and women stationed at the school, as well as the Camden Armory, and that will continue Tuesday. Those members are at the school to ensure the public stays off the property while crews work to clean up the debris.

The school district said on Tuesday it expects its insurance adjusters to survey the damage at the high school. More than 30 of the district’s buses were severely damaged as well.

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