At the beginning of March, the coronavirus still seemed to be a far-fetched threat. The idea that COVID-19 could knock things down, or take things away, had to be impossible, especially for the indestructible seniors at Fox Chapel High School.
I’m one of those seniors. One day at lunch, in early March, a friend of mine joked about what I would do if COVID-19 forced us to stay home with all pro sports canceled. “Hammy, you’d have nothing to do,” he laughed, and I laughed along with him. At that point, I had no grasp of how real that would become.
I write this now sitting at home, just like everybody else, in the exact situation we joked about a little over a month ago. Everything is indeed canceled. Pro sports went down around the same day that school was suspended for us: Thursday, March 12. We lost our spring break trips, sports events, senior prom, graduation — everything that everyone looked forward to. There is no way to get any of it back.
And yet we know that a lot of people have it worse. People are dying in hospitals because they can’t get ventilators. Corporations are laying people off, and small businesses are failing. We young people will probably be fine if we catch the disease, and for those of us in stable economic situations in Fox Chapel, we won’t be as affected by this crisis as many across the world will be.
“Other than [graduation], I'm not really that upset about it,” Abby Alexander, a fellow senior at Fox Chapel, told me recently. “I know that people are really devastated about senior year and everything, and I completely understand that. For me, I just feel like people are really sick, and people are losing money and can't feed their families, so [our senior year] feels like not a big deal when you think about it from that perspective.”
She is right. It could be so much worse. And all things considered, I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve found, though, that I have a hard time comforting myself with those kinds of thoughts. Knowing that I could be in an awful position does nothing to alleviate the sadness about what I’ve lost.
These final three months of high school were going to be our last times with lifelong friends. My girlfriend and I do not plan to continue dating into college, so we’ll now go our separate ways without having the times we could have had.
For us, wasting away at home isn’t simply a matter of boredom; it’s a matter of lost time. Every day that passes, you feel like you could have spent it with people you already have a limited time to be around.
“Closure is a very important thing, for anything you do,” said Will Generett, a senior at Fox Chapel. “When you're leaving any place, closure is a good thing, especially when you've been going to school with these kids, some of them for 12 years.”
I’ve been friends with Will for eight years, and we’ve been part of a friend group of 13 that formed when he arrived in fourth grade. We’re mostly going to different colleges, in various states. This was our last hurrah. We hold out hope for our July senior trip, but it’s hard to be optimistic.
School, before college, can feel like an alternate universe. You know all along that it’s not real life — that you won’t ever deal with people this way again — but it feels so important in the moment. The people who help you navigate it, and make it a good experience, are the important ones.
Senior year is the culmination. We’ve grown as people over the years, and now is when we should get to realize our growth together before heading off into the real world.
“I think that's gonna be the hardest part, is not being able to say goodbye to people that have become your life,” Generett said.“The thing about high school is you just never know what's going to happen to relationships after [it].”
We’ll get to see our close friends again. And we’ve already had a couple of distancing meet-ups, in which we park our cars in an empty lot and sit on the hoods, chatting from a safe distance. Alexander has done the same thing with her friends. Nothing, though, can replace what we could have had. When this ends, we hope to find ways to have suitable send-offs.
But it will be weird to not see many of our classmates again, especially people that we are not that close with but still grew up together.
Closure, and the loss of it, has become a recurring theme. “You're not really that close with people, but you still have a bond with them because you have seen them every day for so long,” Alexander said. “I guess it's just going to be weird, realizing that I won't see them again.”
In the meantime, our generation is uniquely equipped to handle social distancing. We already communicate frequently online. Now, we set up group FaceTime calls and play online games together.
The historical significance of this event will stick with us. We’re “the corona class” — and our world will forever be different.
“I definitely think it will be something we're telling our grandkids about,” Rajeev Godse, another senior, said. “It's pretty easy to see that we're living through a period that will, as Ms. Klein [our AP government teacher] will say, be in the history books of tomorrow.”
In some ways, it is a comfort that we hold this position in a global event. “Regardless of all the monotony and the boredom ... the fact that you were a part of it is something you can tell future generations,” Godse said. “You can say, ‘I was doing my best, doing precisely what was needed to help save people's lives and contain the spread of the virus.’”
Even with the knowledge that we’re living through a world-shifting event, it’s hard not to consider all we’re missing out on. We think back to the last day of our high school careers. No one realized it was going to be the last day. The significance of it all — and the idea that we would lose all of this time — hadn’t come close to sinking in.
“I did not think it was going to be our last day,” Alexander said.
When students were allowed back into the school the next week, to talk to teachers and grab stuff from lockers, we began to realize the possibility that this was it.
“I was like, 'Dang, this might be the last time I close my locker,’” Generett said.
Next year, we’ll go into our post-secondary plans with the hope of starting anew. As difficult as it may be to lose the time we could have had, we take comfort in knowing that our lives are just beginning. We all hope we can build new relationships, and have our great moments, when we go to college. For now, all we can do is reflect, be sad, and, at times, laugh at what the world has given us.
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