With the ceremonial turning of their tassels, Gibbs High School's class of 1991 bid adieu to high school careers and a school year laced with tragedies. "You have learned the uncertainty of life, and the certainty of death," assistant principal Anthony Thurston told Gibbs' 300 graduating seniors Thursday. "This class has demonstrated the ability to take obstacles and transform them into opportunities."
That they have.
Six days before graduation, principal John Demps died from a heart attack while walking near his home in St. Petersburg. He was buried the day before graduation. Three classmates, Jacquelyn Day, Raymond Eliga and Christopher Jackson, died earlier in the school year.
"I feel like my son Christopher graduated, too," said Shirley Jordan Jackson, Christopher's mother. "I was honored that Mr. Thurston asked us to sit with the graduates."
"It was a dramatic year. But I think we've gotten over it," said senior Melissa Douglass, clutching her blue diploma and the yellow carnation given to graduates in memory of Demps.
"But I don't think we'll ever forget him (Demps) or this day," added classmate Tim Haight, whose grimace broke into a smile as he realized that the last senior had just stepped up to receive a diploma.
As the final name was called, Haight and his classmates tossed their yellow carnations into the air and let out cries of joy.
_ NICHOLE M. CHRISTIAN