Most people will never know where they were when they first heard the news that a new virus has been detected in China. Similarly, most will not remember what they were doing when the novel coronavirus was deemed a pandemic by the World Health Organization.However, I know where I was on both occasions, at Douglas County High School. In fact, that is where I hear most things for the first time whether it be from my history teacher, my opinionated friend, or a notification on my phone. Unlike most crises our country and world has faced, we can all reflect on how the word “coronavirus” has quickly, but subtly, creeped into our vocabularies as it has tightened its grip on our community.
I can trace back to when the coronavirus had first started affecting my life.
One day, after school in late February I went to the Douglasville Walmart to pick up a few groceries for my Mom. As I was wandering through the aisles, I found myself in the household cleaning products section. The shelves were almost empty as people had rushed to stock up on Clorox wipes and Lysol spray. At first, I did not know why these products were missing. After talking to one of the Walmart associates who was restocking the store, I remembered the news that Coronavirus cases had just started to appear in the U.S. At that time, I do not think anybody could have imagined the unprecedented situation we are in today.
As time went by, I remember hearing a CDC representative saying on TV that we should prepare for our lives to drastically change. Then, the news that the coronavirus had its first known human to human transmission within the US was reported. Experts were soon warning of community spread and recommending a strategy of “social distancing” that would soon be the norm.
I remember thinking that they would never close schools unless this disease got to the point where it started spreading in our state and county. Many of my fellow classmates and teachers agreed with this sentiment. People were still comfortable to be around others in mid-March. People still felt safe standing in line in the cafeteria or sitting next to each other in class. The week of March 9th through March 13th was our last week going to classes as seniors. Of course, at that time nobody knew this would be ours and everybody else’s last week of the school year with in-person classes.
Some of my fellow classmates joked about it being our last day of school, but it was just that: a joke. Nobody said goodbye to each other because we did not think we had too. We all assumed that this would last for two weeks, three weeks at the most. That week was swift and a little chaotic, with growing uncertainties about what lay ahead for us and the world as school systems, including ours, all around Georgia announced they would be closed for two weeks starting on Monday.
The next few weeks were a definite adjustment but, with the help from our teachers, administrators, and our principal, Mr. Weaver, we were able to adjust to our new way of living, just like the rest of the world. Each time we got notified of our new return date, the prospect of going back before the end of the school year became less and less imaginable, especially as cases of coronavirus rose. I was filled with disappointment again once we were notified that the International Baccalaureate Organization had canceled exams that we had been preparing for since the beginning of junior year. It was yet another shock as we all realized we may not have a traditional graduation ceremony or get to participate in some of the hallmarks of senior year. However, as we all adjusted, I felt inspired by the leadership that my teachers and fellow students showed during these uncertain times. From the virtual meeting with our Assistant Principal, Dr. Fossum, to Google Meets classes with my Current Issues teacher, Ms. Wilson. I realized that we would get through these times as a class, school, community, country, and world; stronger than before. Not to mention, my dog had been exponentially happier from all the attention and treats he had been getting from us!
My goal, for as long as I can remember, has been to become a doctor, and the leadership, perseverance, and resilience all the essential workers from nurses and physicians, to grocery store cashiers and power plant technicians has been extraordinary. This experience has changed all of our lives in profound ways, and created a “new normal” but, once the dust settles I can say definitively that I will come away from this experience with invaluable knowledge on the nature of mankind in a crisis and the humanity we can see in all of us.
Throughout our existence, humans have endeavored, persevered and adapted to crises, some created by the vagaries of mother nature, and some self-created. Even as we remember and mourn the loss many families have suffered through this pandemic; the endurance of the human spirit is what makes us special. I know that one day I will see all my teachers, friends, and classmates. So, we may not be able to remember exactly where we were when we first heard the news of coronavirus, but we will remember what we learned and how we adapted to these most unique circumstances. In the meantime, we should remember that while we may be physically isolated, we are not alone.