By Ross Markman
A sea of blue flowed into the Havre High School gymnasium Sunday night, a body of 142 students, each of whom has attained the status of graduate.
Outfitted in matching caps and gowns, soon-to-be high school graduates moved in single-file precision, as the symphonic band played "Pomp and Circumstance."
Beneath their gowns, some kids wore jeans and sneakers, others, a skirt and strappy sandals with chunky heels.
Each clutched a small, American flag.
Students scanned the packed stands for family members. Proud parents snapped photographs. Faculty members waited patiently at center court as the graduates entered the gym.
"I've been crying all day. It's been so crazy, but it's been a fun ride," said Shelly Bailey, whose daughter Mallory was one of the graduates.
As her daughter made last second adjustments to her gown, the proud, and of course, nervous mother, fiddled with a camera.
"I'm nervous, I'm excited, I'm beside myself," she said.
Shelly Bailey wasn't alone.
Many parents were at a loss for words Sunday night. All were emotional.
"Nervous, nervous, nervous, that's all I can say," said George Dritsoulas, whose son, Michael, graduated. "I'm so nervous."
The students settled and all eyes focused on the podium as Havre Public Schools Superintendent Kirk Miller stepped up to the mic.
"I sat in front of a blank computer screen the other day trying to think of the right words, the best words to express how I feel about each and every one of you," he said. "I've watched all of you grow. I'm very proud of you. Thank you, seniors."
Following his comments, Miller introduced the graduation speaker, Havre High School science teacher, Brett Hamilton.
"The class of 2002 is a very excellent class. They have received over $300,000 of scholarships because of their brains and athletic abilities," he said. "They are diverse in what they do and we are very proud of them."
Hamilton talked about 1983, the year many of the graduates were born.
"This was the time of cabbage patch dolls, the year the Vietnam Memorial was created, and the year that words like bodacious, awesome, gnarly and dude were popular," he said.
Then, after asking all war veterans and current military personnel to stand, Hamilton asked the graduates to show by hand how many knew someone standing.
The point, he said, was to illustrate the connection between the graduates and previous generations.
Hamilton asked the seniors to raise their flags.
"God bless America," they said. "Class of 2002."