Minnehaha Academy seniors reflect on school year after deadly explosion

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Minnehaha Academy seniors were honored in an annual ceremony for their accomplishments in academics and athletics, achievements made after an explosion destroyed their school just before the school year began.

In a year marked by tragedy and immense loss, Mikayla Williams, Forrest Ahrens and Tor Nelson were a source of guidance and strength during tough times.

“It’s been a wave, the best way I can describe it, it’s been a rollercoaster,” said Mikayla Williams.

It was last August when Ahrens says that their world seemed to fall apart. A gas explosion destroyed the Upper School, killing two school employees and injuring nine others.

“It was tough because we had to grieve the loss of Ruth Berg and John Carlson, while at the same time, have hope for the future, have hope for the next year,” said Ahrens.

With the Academy’s Upper School gone, hundreds of students had to relocate and readjust, which for many, did not always come easy.

“At the beginning of the year it was a lot more difficult, because people weren’t really talking about it, but I think people needed a lot of time,” said Nelson.

“I think that me, and especially the whole entire senior class had to set a tone for the year that wasn’t going to be pessimistic and tragic because there was enough of that energy out there,” said Ahrens.

As the school works to rebuild, these students also have their sights set on the future. Faced with adversity, this graduating class persevered gaining life lessons they will take with them on their new journey. 

“It makes me feel really honored,” said Nelson.

“I learned that the most important things in my life are, they’re not places, they’re not buildings, it’s people,” said Ahrens.

“What I’ve learned is that life is really, really fragile, you may think that tomorrow is set in stone, but it’s just not,” said Williams.