St. James, Minnesota, is a tight-knight community of some five thousand people. Located closer to the Iowa state line than it is to the Twin Cities, St. James is the kind of small town where news about high school graduation still grabs headlines in the local paper.
This year, however, the St. James High School graduation made regional and even some national headlines for a different reason: Senior Ross Henderson, who lost his leg in a tragic farming accident just days before he was to walk at graduation, attended the ceremony – complete with cap and gown – from his hospital bed in the Twin Cities.
What would have sounded like a miracle just a few years ago was accomplished with no more than a supportive sibling, a laptop and Skype. “Seeing all my friends up there, they’re all waiving and smiling at me… they think I’m part of the group,” Henderson beamed from his hospital bed.
Four days prior to his graduation, Henderson was busy with early morning farm work in nearby Mt. Lake. He was trying to break up animal feed in a feed trailer when his foot slipped into the auger.
Badly injured, Henderson had to be airlifted to the Twin Cities for an emergency amputation above the knee.
He was happy to be alive. But the dramatic amputation, a long recovery and being confined to a big hospital, far away in the Twin Cities, made his dream of taking part in the St. James graduation seem all but impossible.
Fortunately, his family came up with a solution. Henderson’s older brother, Alex, offered to attend the ceremony and link back to the hospital with Skype.
The graduation was held on a Sunday afternoon in the St. James High School gym. Meanwhile, Ross Henderson was surrounded by family in his Minneapolis-St. Paul hospital room; a laptop covered with a Harley Davidson sticker rested on his chest.
At the St. James gym, 78 students, plus Alex Henderson, went through all of the pomp and circumstance of a typical graduation. According to StJamesnews.com, “The crowd cheered as [Alex] entered the gym and when he was called up to receive Ross’ certificate.”
As Ross Henderson followed the graduation in real time on Skype, he was even able to toss his mortar board at the very same moment as the rest of his St. James friends and classmates. Henderson’s dream of attending graduation was not impossible after all.
“It feels like I’m there, actually,” he concluded with a smile.