The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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January 17, 2014

VIDEO: Irving opening ceremony puts day in multiple memories

Richard Serino wanted to make sure those attending Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new Irving Elementary got the message.

The deputy director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said he heard it when a group of boys and girls who are enrolled at Irving sang the school’s fight song at the beginning of the ceremony.

Said Serino: “Did you hear what they said first? They said: ‘We are here as one.’ The local community, the state and the country worked together as one to make this happen.’’

Serino, who said he will be retiring in a few days, said he was in Joplin within hours of the May 22, 2011, tornado. He said Joplin holds a special place in his heart and that he is amazed at the progress that has been made since then.

He said he goes to disaster conferences where people ask him questions “what about this or that? I use examples of what Joplin has done. If you want the definition of resiliency — it’s Joplin.’’

He made special note of the volunteerism that started in the minutes and hours after the tornado. That volunteerism, he said, has continued for weeks, months and years.

Surrounded by children in the school’s gymnasium, Serino said, “The people of Joplin did it for the right reasons, and they are sitting in front of us.’’

The school’s fight song, he said, “ends with ‘We will soar.’ You did.’’

Superintendent C.J. Huff presented Serino with a plaque that acknowledged FEMA’s “unparalleled support of Joplin’s children and schools.’’ He also thanked the voters of Joplin for endorsing a bond issue that helped build an $18.5 million school to replace both Irving and Emerson schools.

When he first came to Joplin, Huff said, he fielded complaints about the location of Irving with regard to its proximity to a busy one-way street and intersection at 26th Street and Wall Avenue. That site, he said, did not have adequate green space.

The new school, designed by SAPP Design Architects, Associates, and constructed on time by Universal Construction, will serve 650 children in kindergarten through the fifth grade. The 88,400-square-foot school sits on 13.5 acres at 2901 S. McClelland Blvd.

Huff told the children gathered in the gym that the day was for them, and that it marks the first time since 1985 that a new elementary school has opened in Joplin.

“You can tell your children and grandchildren about what happened here today,’’ he said. “This is an example of bigger and better.’’

He commended the students for offering a vision of what a school might be as seen through the eyes of a child.

“This school was designed by kids for kids,’’ he said, describing them as budding architects and designers.

In time, the property will have more green space and soccer fields as Mercy Health System vacates the site.

Danny Thomas, president and manager of KOAM-TV, and chairman of the board of Mercy Hospital Joplin, said the Sisters of Mercy came to Joplin in 1896 to build a school. When they saw an injured miner being transported to Fort Scott, Kan., for treatment, they decided to build a hospital, too.

St. John’s Regional Medical Center existed on the site for 44 years. Except for six days at Memorial Hall after the tornado, Mercy continues to provide medical care to the Joplin community via a replacement hospital at 2817 St. John’s Blvd.

With assistance from the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, the students held and then cut a red ribbon.

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