(CBS News) Moore, Okla. is reaching a turning point 12 weeks after a tornado killed 24 people. Friday is the first day of a new school year.
CBS News recently spoke with a student and a principal there who are both trying to look ahead.
Rebuilding their school in less than three months from salvaged boxes and volunteered time was the easy part for Plaza Towers Elementary. Making students feel safe again is proving to be much harder. Kai Heuangpraseuth, 9, still struggles at any mention of last May's tornado that leveled the town. He was pulled from the wreckage when his entire school collapsed, but seven of his classmates did not make it.
Asked if he remembers anything about the storm, Kai said, "I heard something hitting a window. Like above us. That's all. I just closed my eyes."
In the place where his old school once stood is a sign promising a new one. Crosses at the school often have fresh flowers to remember, but principal Amy Simpson says no one will forget. She said, "It will be eating lunch at a different time, going to PE/music/art at a different time, playing on a new playground, all of that will be our new normal."
Some of the harder conversations she's had with some of the kids and their parents of Plaza Towers Elementary include safety going forward. She said. "The hardest part for me is to understand that I can't make it perfect for them."
It may not be perfect, but for Kai it's enough. He's starting the new year happy -- hoping to forget about the last one.
Watch Vinita Nair's full report above.