BR Graduation

Benjamin Russell Class of 2020 graduate Emily Ray, left, and her mother Alana Garrad look over the photographs posted in the lawn of Benjamin Russell Class of 2020 graduates Wednesday.

The coronavirus has wreaked havoc on high school senior traditions.

Proms didn’t happen. Awards programs where seniors celebrate achievements with friends and family were altered. The pomp and circumstance of many graduations were changed.

To help with a new normal, residents stepped up to create tributes across town posting Benjamin Russell Class of 2020 formal photographs on electronic billboards and on signs in the lawn of the school.

The lines of photos in front of BRHS were a surprise for Class of 2020 graduate Emily Ray.

“I was driving by the school (Tuesday) night and saw them,” Ray said Wednesday. “At the moment I thought it looked like a graveyard. Now, I think it’s great. I like how the photos are on both sides of the signs.”

At first, it looked like graduation may not happen at all. But after statewide restrictions on gatherings were lifted, the Wildcats’ graduation is scheduled for tonight. The only major difference will be a two-part ceremony complete with social distancing practices.

It is most exciting for Ray and her mother Alana Garrard as Ray gets to shine one last time on the football field at the Charles E. Bailey Sportplex tonight with her classmates to celebrate their accomplishments.

“Emily was in the band,” Garrard said. “I got to see her on (the field) on Friday nights and get to see her there one more time.”

Ray and Garrard understand it will be a little different but are happy about continuing the Benjamin Russell graduation ceremony tradition.

“We think it’s exciting to be on the field,” Garrard said. “I’m glad we are able to celebrate the occasion this way. It’s such a huge milestone.”

Ray is pleased too.

“I was down in the dumps about not having a graduation,” she said. “I was surprised when they told us it would happen. I’m really excited about it. It was a load off my chest.”

Cliff Williams is a staff writer for Tallapoosa Publishers.