The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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April 20, 2012

JHS prom night brings students together

JOPLIN, Mo. — Grayson Ford and his girlfriend, Hannah Sparks, had spent the May 22 afternoon swimming at Ford’s pool with their siblings. He lived near 32nd Street and Schifferdecker Avenue.

Sparks received a text message on her phone from her mother warning her that a storm was headed her way. She said she didn’t take it seriously until it started getting windy.

“You could see the pool chairs start flipping,” she said.

The couple headed to the basement where they heard the train-like sound of the tornado. They heard glass shattering and felt the pressure change. No one at Ford’s house was injured that night, but the tornado that wiped out nearly one-third of Joplin also hit Ford’s house that day.

Eleven months later, Ford and Sparks are still a couple. The Joplin High School students will head to their second prom together. Sparks’ dress is a shiny royal blue and Ford will have a tie to match.

Tonight’s prom will be anything but the typical rite of passage for those planning to attend the JHS prom.

“I’m just excited to see what they’ve done,” Sparks said. “Everyone spent so much time working on it and trying to make it amazing and special for us since we’ve gone through so much. They’ve gone out of their way to do this for us.”

Ford and Sparks plan to have pictures taken before prom at a friend’s house, then head to dinner at Crabby’s with a group of about 12 friends. After prom, they will attend Project Prom, where students can sign up in groups for different activities throughout the night and early morning.

Sparks said that what they went through in the past year has brought them closer together. She’ll graduate in a few weeks and plans to attend a local cosmetology school. Ford will have another year of high school to complete.

“I’m happy we weren’t anywhere besides the basement,” Ford said. “We’re thankful. It brought us closer in an event that will hopefully only happen once in our lifetime.”

Best friends

Junior Sarah Ingle’s prom date is one of her best friends, junior John Zippro. The two have been friends since sixth grade.

“I would rather have fun with my friends and not have any pressure with an awkward date,” Ingle said.

Ingle rode out the May 22 tornado in the bathroom with her family at their apartment at the Plaza Apartments behind the 15th Street Walmart, and Zippro was there soon after to make sure they were safe.

“The first person I could think about once driving on Range Line was Sarah,” Zippro said. “I saw Walmart was gone. I could only see devastation and you can only expect the worst and hope for the best. I was just really eager to see that her and her family were OK. Once I saw her, there might have been tears.”

After he got to the apartments, Zippro helped pull some residents out of the rubble and went to Walmart with Ingle to help. Now, nearly a year later, Ingle, Zippro and the rest of their group of about 10 students plan to have their pictures taken downtown and have dinner at Wasabi before heading to prom.

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