An unfortunate accident derailed a milestone event for two Truman High School students May 25, but it resulted in a memorable occasion Monday evening.

A special commencement ceremony was held for Truman High School graduates Paige Hopkins and Molly Varney at the board room of the Independence School District’s Central Office Monday. The two students were in an automobile accident just hours before their class’s graduation ceremony at the Community of Christ Auditorium. And instead of spending that momentous occasion with their classmates, the two were at the hospital being treated for injuries; missing their high school graduation.

“We honestly thought we would just receive our diplomas in the mail and that’s it,” said Hopkins. “We’re very honored and thankful for this special ceremony.”

Truman Principal Pam Boatright said a staff member informed her about the crash involving the two graduates as they were preparing for the ceremony. That same day, she added, is when she thought of the idea of having a special ceremony for the two to compensate for something that could not happen again.

Boatright later suggested the idea of a special ceremony to the district and according to Superintendent Dale Herl, it happily obliged. So, on Monday evening, Hopkins and Varney walked down the board room’s aisle in their cap and gown. The ceremony was essentially a replication of the May 25 commencment, including the attendance of school board members and district administrators, a second delivery of Boatright’s commencement speech, and even the video clip highlighting Truman’s 50th graduating class that was shown during the original ceremony. The two-week time lapse was due to coordinating a date so the graduates’ families and friends could all attend, Boatright said.

Hopkins said she was having difficulty finding the Community of Christ Auditorium on graduation day  and decided to pull her 2004 Buick La Sabre in a QuikTrip at 23rd Street and Noland Road for directions. As she was driving out of the gas station from the exit facing 23rd Street, she and her passenger, Varney, were T-boned by an oncoming vehicle. The next thing they both knew they “landed in another parking lot.”

Luckily they did not suffer any life-threatening injuries, only “bumps and bruises,” said Paige’s father, Ryan Hopkins.

“Our parents kept telling us we were worrying about the wrong things,” recalled Paige about missing their graduation.

Although Paige did receive a laceration on her forehead and Molly experienced enough swelling on her leg to suggest a possible fracture, it was enough for emergency crews to decide the two friends, who met in a photography class their junior year, to get medical treatment at a hospital before attending their graduation.

“I felt really guilty,” said Paige. “We were never going to forget this the rest of our lives.”

As it turned out, Hopkins and Varney received something they will never forget. The two self-described “average, everyday students” were totally surprised by a graduation ceremony arranged just for them.

“All of this happened from our principals just making sure we got this experience,” said Molly, who didn’t end up having a broken leg, after all. “It’s very considerate.”

Now a high school graduate, Paige said she will be attending Missouri State University in Springfield to study psychology in the fall. Molly said she will be taking classes at Longview Community College to complete her associate of arts and later pursue photography.

“No other class will be able to make the same claim,” Boatright said in her commencement speech, which possibly referred to both the 50th graduating class of Truman High School and Monday’s special ceremony for two grateful graduates.