UVALDE, Texas — The Uvalde High School Class of 2022 celebrated their graduation in a delayed ceremony Friday evening, but you wouldn't have known it driving around the city this week.
In a muted affair held exactly one month after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary, there seemed to be a shortage of caps and gowns. No balloons were in sight; there was no graduation bunting in the community's windows. Messages of congratulations were scarce, and the local photographer was on vacation.
Meanwhile, evidence of Friday's upcoming ceremony was limited to empty chairs at Honey Bowl Stadium, where friends and family would soon gather in a rare respite from the unusual amount of attention their community of roughly 16,000 has received over the last month.
#SeniorStrong had given way to #UvaldeStrong.
"If I had to choose one theme for today, I would choose healing," Uvalde High Principal Randy Harris said at the ceremony's start. "Healing is what you need. It's what I need, it's what our community needs."
But the world was still listening on Friday. And the easiest way for community members to listen to the lessons these teachers and pupils had to impart was the old-school way: Tuning in on the radio, via 104.9.
Once there, listeners heard not just applause for the Class of 2022 – 288 graduates in all – but also commemoration for the Class of 2030.
Nineteen members of which won't get to walk the stage one day.
"These are the moments that let us heal," Abigail Kone said in her valedictorian speech. "They show us, believe it or not, (that) there is more good than evil in this world."
Kone went on to proclaim the Robb Elementary students as "honorary members" of the Class of 2022, giving the relatives and loved ones in attendance reason to applaud even louder under the hot south Texas sun.
"We will stand together as a community," Kone went on to say. "We are Uvalde, and I am blessed to call this place home."
These graduates combined to earn $2.7 million in scholarships. On this day, that caliber of character was on full display.