Morristown-Hamblen High School West held its socially distanced graduation Thursday night under almost perfect weather nearly two months after COVID-19 delayed what would have been a normal graduation.
Hundreds of students lined the field of Burke-Toney Stadium six feet apart, draped in crimson gowns, to receive their diplomas in the new normal.
Nathan Sia, a featured speaker, spoke to the class in a digital video played on the jumbotron as he is now currently in basic training for the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.
“As Green Day put it in their song ‘Good Riddance,’ It’s something unpredictable, in the end it’s right, I hope you had the time of your lives,” Sia said.
For the class of 2020, they saw themselves born just before Sept. 11,2001 and saw their high school careers end in the most major virus pandemic since 1918.
Sia reflected on the end of their high school careers as it was cut short when Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee asked for schools to be closed at the end of March. Schools remained closed after that and for almost a month and a half, there was a Safer at Home order that kept most people at home until May.
“It’s weird how our moods flipped overnight while we were stuck in our homes,” he said. “We wanted this graduation day to come as soon as possible.”
He said everyone thought it would be a nice two week break when school was first called off in March. Then it became four weeks, he said.
“Then poof with the snap of a finger, the rest of our senior experience was gone,” he said. “By the time that school was officially called off, I felt something that I thought I would never feel. I, along with others, missed being at West.”
Sia, along with Deklyn Manuel and senior class president Chloe Livesay, made remarks to the student body just before walking the field to receive diploma covers.
In the new normal, there were no shaking of hands as the graduates received their covers and the stands were less full then a normal graduation as seating had been limited.
Dr. Jeff Perry, Hamblen County school superintendent, said it was an extraordinary step for the school administration to make a graduation possible under the time of COVID-19. As he asked graduates to thank administrators for their work, he was greeted with a burst of applause.
Livesay told the student body that for the last several months there has been focus on what has been lost. But, she challenged the student body to remember their accomplishments and how they have and will progress.
She said the class will be remembered for their relationships, not for grades or popularity. Livesay used a quote from Dolly Parton to conclude her speech and give hope to the graduating senior class of West High School.
“I will leave you with this,” she said. “A positive attitude and a sense of humor go together like biscuits and gravy.”