Almost 300 high school seniors received their diplomas Friday in Uvalde in the shadow of the massacre of 19 elementary school students and two teachers one month earlier.
The 288 red-gowned Uvalde High School seniors sat in 100-degree heat at the school stadium on the one-month anniversary of the mass shootings. Before them were arrayed 21 "Uvalde Strong" placards, representing those killed, as school and student leaders spoke.
Uvalde school Superintendent Hal Harrell and school principal Randy Harris praised the students for their strength and resilience through three COVID-19 pandemic years, three changes of principals and then the May 14 mass shooting at the South Texas town's Robb Elementary School.
"Love the people in your life while you have them because you don't know what the future holds for anyone," class valedictorian Abigail Kone said in her address.
"Our community has definitely learned about the unexpected. Something that should have never happened happened. Our lives have been altered. But we still stand together as a community," she said.
After reading off the names of the 19 slain children and teachers, Kone said, "These loved ones of families were taken too soon. They won't be given the opportunity to follow their dreams or watch their families grow up.
"So tonight, I would like to include these children of Robb Elementary as honorary members of the Class of 2022 family," she said to prolonged applause.