It’s hard to imagine about a year ago, the loads of people unmasked who would lounge on the PAC stairs laying on top of one another, the screeching of the chairs in the dining hall as ten people would try to fit on two tables, the freedom to go to the movies or play sports without fear of deadly illness.
How do people best remember their last day of “normality”? Honestly, when most students are about March 13, 2020, they all agree it’s pretty much a blur:
“I just remember a lot of hugging and crying."
"I think the teachers were the only ones that knew we weren’t going to return.”
“I just kept looking around thinking this may be the last time I ever see some of these people.”
The previous day, Thursday, March 12, is the day everyone remembers--the chaos of the teachers meeting and confirming we wouldn’t get out of school in the morning, the seemingly mysterious Baylor health vans leaving campus, the administrators coming in and out of the chapel boardroom.
Orly Burke, Senior Editor: That morning I had never seen Mr. Burner so serious. The image forever burned in my head of him saying, “Folks, I am a man of science and data, and right now we don’t know either of those things. That makes this difficult, and I’m sorry, but we will persevere.” That’s all I remember from any of my classes then; all of the teachers trying to stay calm to alleviate the students. The rest of that day is just saying goodbye to my friends, the boarders and seniors the worst. I ran to the dining hall to hug my friend Ashleigh Huang because we didn’t have any classes that day, and I wanted to make sure I got to say goodbye; I was laughing at that time because it felt very cinematic, a final goodbye.
My understanding of the scenario was vastly different from my peers because a week earlier my sister had returned home, her college having locked down and forced everyone off campus. Everyone had been joking, “Oh, it’s just going to be an extended spring break,”..."we’ll come back in a few weeks, don’t worry!” But we know that worldwide pandemics don’t go away that easily. Leaving campus I felt an eerie sense of dread, so much so that I slowed down and took a photo of the school before I left (attached). Sometimes I look at that photo to memorialize the last time everything was “normal,” but it does no good. As of today, U.S. President Joe Biden has said all adults should be eligible for the vaccine by May 1. “Normalcy” won’t return, but being able to hug my friends without fear is enough for me now.
Ava Echard, Senior Editor: On the March 12, I remember the way things happened in little pieces, then all at once. My intuition was built on expressions of uneasiness in teachers and friends throughout the day, and then in my last period of precalculus with Mr. Weaver, I watched as the administration moved back and forth from the board room in the basement of the chapel. After school, unable to shake my fight or flight feeling, I looked to comfort my close friends, texting them to meet up at Whole Foods. There we received the email that we all now remember so well. I drove home in a reverie, and the reverie didn’t break even when I was back on campus the next day is the day I felt deeply would be my last for a long time: March 13.
The events of the day before hadn’t left my brain. My close friend, Sabrina Franke '20, was a senior boarder, and I had come to her room late the night before to fill trash bags with all her clothes and contents of her room so she could leave quickly the following day. I brought her sushi and flowers. I gave her a long hug, thinking that despite what I was experiencing, she was essentially being asked to leave her home during the second semester of her senior year. My perspective of March 13 was shadowed by a picture taken the day before. It was a picture of Sabrina and I hugging with the flowers I had brought to her. So much of our lives are shaped not by the school itself, but by the friendships we have on its campus and the hugs we share. As I stumbled through that day, inundated with distance-learning plans and mindfulness exercises, I did not know that it would be the last time I could comfortably hug a friend for a long time.
Now, a year later, those with pre-existing conditions are being vaccinated and healthy adults are set to have access to vaccines very soon. As much as the effects of COVID-19 are still in our everyday lives, and will probably be for many years, the virus has shown me how much human behavior and triumph is built on connection. Our decisions, such as to wear a mask or not, can define the lives of our neighbors and friends. Our time quarantined, deeply separate, has shown us how ironic it is that we believed we could ever be separate in the first place. As that quarantined time in our lives now moves into the rear view, both perpetually jarringly recent and blurrily distant, we understand that we will inevitably move forward...this time, together in every sense of the word.