This time last year I was standing at the front of the school checking the college basketball scores from the previous night. As I was scrolling, I received a breaking news alert to my phone. I am not a big consumer of news, so the algorithm usually only pushes the stories it really thinks I care about, but typically it is still wrong. This time, it wasn’t: N.B.A. Suspends Season After Player Tests Positive for Coronavirus. It is weird to think about now, but at the time sports was the biggest impact the virus had on my life. That changed quickly.
“Did you hear about Avon?” Another teacher asked me as I was mourning the loss of my NBA season. “They are closing for a couple of weeks because of corona. Somebody must have gotten it there.”
On the way to my class, I heard other teachers talking amongst themselves about the pandemic. I heard students doing the same albeit in that joking manner that only elementary and middle school age children could come up with. “You got rona!” One boy said as he ran away from a girl he just shoved. He found a way to do something like this to her everyday because he liked her. Ironically, that interaction brought a sense of normalcy back to the day. But then we watched CNN10 like we do every morning, and it was more of the same. CNN10 is pre-recorded, so often it is a day or two behind the 24 hour news cycle. The story was about COVID-19 but the footage and the coverage was still based on the crisis in China and Italy. As we looked at footage of empty streets in Rome and Beijing one couldn’t help but question if that was a preview of what was to come here.
I wasn’t naive enough to believe the virus wouldn’t make it here. I just figured this country was too stubborn to take such drastic precautions. It’s one thing to see a communist country without a free press under lockdown, it’s another thing to see it here in America.
As I peeked my head outside my door to see why a student was taking so long in the restroom, I saw admin whispering to each other in the halls and running around frantically with no obvious explanation. I realized they knew something I didn’t. That something was probably that we too would be closing. That was in the morning. For whatever reason they waited until the end of the day to tell us. We were to collect student contact info and pass out busy work “just in case.” Anybody who had been paying attention knew the situation was not going to get “better” over the weekend. So, I left that day knowing it was the last time I would be in the building for a while. And it was.
This account sounds like the intro to a zombie virus movie, but it is not. It is a real thing that actually happened. And although there were no flesh-eating zombies, for a while our cities did resemble the post-apocalyptic settings we have become accustomed to seeing in Hollywood summer blockbusters. The world didn’t end, but it did pause. Many people did die. Many aspects of our lives have changed. For a lot of industries, this pandemic is the BC-AD divide of their story…with the BC in this case standing for “before corona.”
For the sake of posterity, the NBA did come back… kind of. We did return to school…kind of. However, COVID-19 has left a lasting impact on the world. The real crazy part is that although it served as the setting of 2020, the pandemic is not the defining cultural happening of the year. However, as a history teacher it is still important that we remember that last year, we lived through history that will be talked about for years to come.