In the Blink of An Eye

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In the Blink of An Eye

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Maybe if quarantine lasts three weeks, we’ll have spring break before we go back to class, I wistfully think to myself.

It’s already March 13th of 2020, but the air is still nippy and my mom still makes me wear that atrocious parka. She’s been hearing all these reports about the coronavirus, and I think it’s releasing her inner germaphobe.

My school day finishes off like any other, except I have to stay behind for AP Biology review, like who has review two months before an exam? Following an hour full of practice problems, workbooks, and texting my friends under my desk, it’s finally time to go home. The talk of the school is if Xaverian plans on closing for quarantine, following the footsteps of nearly every other Catholic school in the city.

But I don’t even take two steps out of my desk before my iPad pings with an email. One by one, we all find out that Xaverian will be closed for the foreseeable future, and that online learning will commence on Monday. I picture using this new interface, Zoom, for class. A feeling of exhilaration grows in my chest. I can already picture it: no uniforms, and no restrictions—just a newfound capacity for freedom.

Our group parades towards the lockers, gossiping while packing up our books and putting on our coats. The moment doesn’t feel real; it feels like I’m floating, suspended in the joyful innocence of being a high school senior. With our navy and khaki skirts swishing around our legs, knees exposed to the frigid air, my three friends and I begin the trek home through Bay Ridge, blissfully ignorant to the fact that it would be the very last time we ever put those uniforms back on, or that it would be three months before we saw each other next.

How naïve we were walking home that day, discussing how fun and convenient online learning would be. We chat about prom dress shopping, boys, and how funny it would be to take AP exams online—not realizing that prom would be canceled, and that we would take those exams online. It was my last day of normal, the last day before everything changed for good.

Three months later, I graduated high school from my porch, wistfully smiling as I was handed a trophy for becoming the Salutatorian of Xaverian High School’s Class of 2020.

The following week in June, I stand on those same steps in funeral clothes, wondering how everything changed in the blink of an eye. Not even seven days after graduation, my grandma passes away alone at Staten Island University Hospital, unable to be accompanied by her family because of COVID-19. It comes out of the blue; she feels fatigued and lethargic, but refuses to get medical attention until the very last moment because of possible exposure to the virus. By the time she arrives at the hospital, they admit her in stable condition, but she never makes it through the night.

As of June 20th, 2020, 176,066 Americans are dead from the coronavirus. My grandma didn’t have it, but I can’t help counting her as the 176,067th life taken away by this disease. Because of COVID-19, she skipped her doctor’s appointments, and lived in complete isolation to avoid contracting the virus. Yet in the end, it is the virus that indirectly takes her away, preventing any of her loved ones from being present in her final moments.

Nearly three years later since that last day of high school, on February 21st, 2023, I can reflect on how much my life has changed. COVID-19 went on to rob me of my first two years at Brooklyn College–I spent them cooped up in my bedroom on Zoom, not meeting my newfound friends until my junior year of college. COVID-19 influenced me in my choice to be a Health and Nutrition Science major, as I hope to learn more about preventing disease and use my knowledge to make me a better physician in the future. Millions have now died from COVID-19, and my version of “normal” has forever changed. Three years ago, the future seemed bleak and dire. I still wear a mask on the train, but now I see hope in the future because of our vaccine development and how normalized it’s become to talk about public health. I can only hope that as time goes on, humanity works together to regain a sense of normalcy.
Junior undergrad majoring in HNSC with a concentration in Public Health.

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This item was submitted on February 22, 2023 by [anonymous user] using the form “Share Your Story With Us” on the site “Brooklyn College New York”:

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