"Looking back, I wish I had savored that day more, the last day any of us would have any semblance of normalcy."
I am a member of the Class of 2021.
When COVID-19 had its first outbreak in the U.S., I was in the second half of my junior year in high school. I went home from school on March 11, 2020, expecting to return the next day to finish off the quarter and enjoy my last day of school before spring break. COVID-19 had been in the news, sure, but it wouldn’t affect my school, right? We rarely even had a snow day, much less a canceled day due to some illness that was rapidly spreading.
That night, I remember sitting on the couch, working on my calculus homework, when my parents called up to me from where they had been watching the news. Due to rising concerns for public health, school was canceled the next day.
Naturally, everyone in my school was ecstatic for an unexpected extra day of spring break—even more so when, later on, we found out that spring break was going to be extended another week. But then it was extended another, then another, until finally it was decided that we would not be returning to in-person school for the rest of the school year.
Of course, it made sense with how harmful COVID was becoming to the world. People were dying, and it was the right choice to call off school. But it still sucked.
We began online schooling in early April, and it was both good and bad. Kids who had struggled in an in-person school setting were now thriving, with the best grades they’d ever had resulting from forced home-schooling. Others, such as myself, who had thrived in an in-person school setting, were now struggling immensely to learn from home. That was the first time I’ve ever had an ongoing F that I actually struggled to bring up. On top of that, as a naturally social person, I was incredibly lonely.
I had left the school on March 11 without saying goodbye to my friends, not knowing that I wouldn’t see most of them for at least six months, if not more. I didn’t know that the next time I would step foot in that building, if ever, would be as a senior, wearing a mask, required to stay six feet away from everyone else. Looking back, I wish I had savored that day more, the last day any of us would have any semblance of normalcy.
The coronavirus stole the last quarter of the class of 2020’s senior year. It stole their prom, their graduation, their proper farewell.
From us, the Class of 2021, it looks like coronavirus might very well steal our entire senior year, in one form or another. We will likely have no sports, no college tours, no normal homecoming, no senior trip, no normal prom, no normal graduation. If we do get to return to our building for in-person classes (crossing our fingers!), it will be divided. We will lose that tight-knit fellowship that seniors always seem to have with each other. We will be wearing masks, distanced, constantly afraid of an invisible threat. We will essentially spend our senior year alone.
We thought we were safe—that the virus would blow over by the end of the summer. We felt bad for the class of 2020, but we weren’t too worried about our own senior year. It still seemed so far away.
Well, here we are now. The Class of 2021, finally seniors, but even the near-future is covered in a haze. We don’t know what’s going to happen, if we’ll ever be able to step into a high school building as a student again. What we do know is that we lost something precious that every high school graduate before us has had. What that something is, I don’t know, and I don’t know that I ever will.
I am a member of the Class of 2021, the first class to enter their senior year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ryley is a high school senior whose school is conducting 100-percent remote, online learning through October 8, at which time the situation will be re-evaluated.