Content Warning: COVID-19/coronavirus
Random Three-Week Break?!
“Bro, no more school. Let’s go! This virus is going to help us out so much!!” As the speculation about today being the last day before a hefty break spiraled out of control, I did not want to get my hopes up. Nothing like this has ever happened before in my life, and I was confident it would not happen today either. I was in eighth period in my Advisory initiative class, and it felt to me as though the clock was moving in milliseconds. My teacher collected our homework assignments one by one. I did not know it then, but this would be the last assignment I’d turn in for the year. Mr. McCarthy was teaching us about the effects of social media on teenage students and, as usual, my friends and I were dozing off, talking about sports and other meaningless topics. Sometime later, unconsciously, I began staring at the clock, then at the ground, then Mr. McCarthy’s desk. I stared everywhere except at him and the board on which his presentation was being shown. He took note of this and suddenly called my name, startling me. Luckily, however, the intercom went off, and an announcement was broadcast, interrupting my “thoughtful” answer. What was said is a message I will never forget.
No school for three weeks. This was the summary of the long and detailed announcement. I quickly grasped that the message was about COVID-19 and the cases increasing. The state governor had instructed all Pennsylvania schools to take a three-week hiatus and, at the time, I did not realize or comprehend that this “three-week break” would eventually turn into a three-year break. This message felt inevitable, as the coronavirus had been the only topic around the world for the past month: how this newly found virus spread rapidly across the world and could potentially cause a global pandemic. A few seconds later, the entire classroom was very silent, with a palpable sense of shock lingering in the air. Students sat frozen at their desks, staring blankly at the front of the room where the teacher sat. He looked equally stunned, as if he could not believe what had just happened. Although a lot of us anticipated something like this happening, it was still very astonishing. Every word uttered in the intercom felt like it contained a thousand characters and was filled with precedence never ever heard of before. Every small decision had led to this day.
Some students were in joy, others in shock, but, undoubtedly, everyone was confused. Teachers made phone calls to other teachers, and many were lost in confusion themselves. I was taken aback by this message, and I did not know what to do. We all took a minute to process what just happened and then proceeded to talk as a class. We were only twenty minutes into the period, and it was already the craziest class I had ever been in.
The students were eagerly waiting to go home, fidgeting in their seats, checking the clock on the wall every few minutes, and whispering to each other about everything they thought. One kid put his head on the table, covered his face, and laid down. The tension and anticipation in the room was at an all-time high. I doodled a sculpture of a football in my book, something I rarely ever do. As a sudden sound of creaking awoke the room, the school principal walked in the room with an uncertain face and a stack of papers in his hands. He came into the classroom with jarring steps and whispered in my teacher’s ear. This whole sequence seemed like ten million years, but it was only two minutes. All the students eagerly listened, trying to overhear anything. I gave up trying to get involved in the discussion, and eventually the principal walked out of the classroom. As the minutes passed, it became 2:47 PM, three minutes from the end of the school week. I did not know whether this would be my last day before several weeks of break or just a joke, and I would be back sooner. Nothing prepared me for this extreme situation – I could not go back in the past to get a reference to help me out. I wanted to go home and talk to my parents, or at least talk to my friends about this situation. My teacher shut his laptop, put it in his bag in a swift motion, and cleared his desk. The bell rang.
I picked up my binder, my notebooks, and everything else that belonged to me on the desk and quickly walked out of the classroom, not speaking a word to anyone. My friends called on me to wait for them, but I responded with a quick “Sorry, I’m late.” As I walked out of the classroom, it felt weird seeing the rest of my grade just like me going to their lockers. Something about this walk ticked me off; it did not feel normal, and something was different. My locker was close to my classroom, and I swiftly dropped off my items in my backpack and hung it behind my shoulders. I powered on my phone. I proceeded to walk down the steps with another friend, just talking about what the virus had done and how we were getting three weeks off! I heard chatter all around me about this situation, kids talking about this to their friends and producing crazy theories. We finally crossed all the commotion to the bus circle, where I noticed several teachers had masks on. It was disorienting seeing a white cloth strapped across their chin; it just did not feel like something regular then but simply a practice that was followed by some people over the past month. As each bus got called on, mine arrived late as usual. As I left the school, it did not occur to me that this was the last time I would ever be a middle schooler or a member of this school. Little did I know after this day my life, along with the billions of people around the world, would be changed forever. One small moment can change everything, and you may not even know you are living it at that moment. That day was a day I will never forget, as it had a profound impact on my life and my education. The gravity of the situation is something I am still not able to recover from.