CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- It was one month ago that tornadoes ripped trough the Tennessee Valley, damaging parts of Ringgold and the city's middle and high schools.
Tradition takes a back seat to tragedy, but graduating seniors say that's ok.
"We're still Ringgold High School despite the fact the school is damaged. As long as we're together, we're fine," says Niki Harden.
A stream of blue divides the red gowns. Lakeview High School seniors graduated just two hours before their in county-rivals Ringgold, Friday night.
The tigers typically walk across their football field at graduation, not a stage at UTC's McKenzie Arena.
"People were sending texts and wanted to protest, but we have so much more seating and there's room for our family," says Kelsey Kile.
When the April 27th tornadoes toppled parts of Ringgold High and Middle School. That meant many changes for these seniors finishing out the year walking the halls of a rival school, Heritage High, and then a new venue for graduation.
"It's been like everything else in the last three weeks, you go to plan be...it's gonna be nice, cozy, it'll work," says Principal Sharon Vaughn.
Seniors David Crawford and Savannah Woods wrote a song, to share with their friends on graduation night. They hope it will be an inspiration of hope and happiness.
"Something to knock you back on your feet," says Crawford.
"Its more personal too because we all gone through this...and hope it help," says Woods.
The triumph over the storms, hits close to home for some.
"Our home, four vehicles and our business is gone...it's been special to come together," says Shay Cope.
As the 2011 graduates walk across the stage and open a new door. They gain this right of passage, a little wiser, a little stronger according to them and looking on the positive side of change.
"I do wish I coulda been at school but the main part is we're graduating together," says Cope.
"At the same time this is cool, it's a big area ...And the news people are here," says Trevor Snider.
Law enforcement were out on the roadways making sure it was a safe Labor Day holiday for everyone.
900 Whitehall Road
Chattanooga, TN 37405
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