By Moriah Story
A few weeks ago, the Coronavirus was the least of my concerns. It was just a meme, just the topic of news articles from countries thousands of miles away, just a concern for germaphobes. I was working hard in my classes, taking quizzes and writing essays and daydreaming about Spring Break.
Even when the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the United States, I didn’t stop for a moment. It wasn’t near me; it didn’t affect me; I had papers to write. Each time I saw my phone light up with a headline from the New York Times, I just hoped it wouldn’t be another article about the coronavirus, because I was tired of hearing about it.
But in the span of a few days, everything changed. Confirmations of new cases flooded in by the hundreds and people across the States began to panic. Really panic. I watched with confusion and a little bit of horror as the stores around me ran out of toilet paper, hand sanitizer and wipes. Friends from other colleges and other states texted me to let me know that their Spring Breaks were extended. My plans for visits and concerts and conferences were cancelled one by one.
Yet, I told myself, along with thousands of other college students across the country, that nothing drastic would change. This would all blow over, breaks would end, shelves would be restocked and we would all be back in our dorm rooms, studying late into the night as if nothing had happened.
But we were wrong again. The coronavirus spread quickly and viciously and uncontrollably, despite the signs to wash our hands. Despite the government’s attempts to shut it down. Despite the quarantines. And my week-long vacation became a form of house arrest for an indefinite amount of time.
When I got the email that said Wilson College would be switching to online instruction for the rest of the spring semester, I was more than bummed. I was deeply saddened by the fact that this is a part of my college education that I will not be able to get back. The learning will continue, through screens and emails and Zoom conferences. But the part of my experience that centers on club activities and meals in the dining hall and Netflix binges in my friends’ rooms and the bonding experiences that college students get from learning together have been put on hold.
At times it feels too strange to be true. We, as college students, as Americans, as humans, are living in an unprecedented time. The thought of not returning to Wilson, or my job, or my friends for at least the next five months is disheartening, and I’m certain my peers feel the same. And yet, I find it comforting that we are all figuring out our next steps together. As the situation with COVID-19 changes and evolves day to day, our reliance on each other may be the only thing keeping us from falling into the panic and confusion that chases us onward.
Some day, they will write about us in the history books. The historians will note how it struck us so quickly we had no time to prepare. They will write about how some of us hoarded toilet paper and some of us stayed at home for days on end and some of us threw caution to the wind and traveled around anyway. Yes, they may write about the sense of fear and desperation that plagued us Americans for weeks on end. But I hope they also write about how we banded together and worked through it as a country, and came out stronger on the other side.