It was a cold winter morning in January when I had first heard of the supposed virus that was spreading like wildfire in China. It was one of our first days back from winter break during my junior year. I was in art class fiddling on my phone and trying to fight off the lingering feelings of sleep while waiting for my teacher to start her lesson when I came across an article that caught my eye…
Mysterious Virus. Spreads Like the Flu. 300 Infected in Wuhan! On the front of the page was a man lying limp in a gurney. There were two faceless medical staff members dressed in blaring yellow protective gear on either side hauling him into an ambulance.
I could feel the blood draining from my hands. I had to close my eyes and repeatedly tell myself to keep breathing. This stuff only happens in sci-fi movies, right? This couldn't possibly be real. It was probably another one of CNN’s scare tactics to gain publicity and make more money. Besides, we’re living in the 21st century. Sure, we get strains of diseases that come and go, but nothing too costly. What happened with Tuberculosis and the Spanish Flu in the early nineteen was tragic, but we’re much more advanced now.
I couldn’t recall the instructions my teacher had given us that day, something about how to use oil pastels when creating Pop Art? It didn't matter. All I wanted was to talk to my mom. Maybe she’s heard something about this virus on Facebook. As I sent a text to her, I couldn’t help but mentally kick myself. Stupid anxiety. It’s bad enough dealing with the stress of starting school again after a relaxing break, now I have to worry about the deadly effects a cold has on the human populace? When will I learn to let go of the problems I can’t fix?
Suddenly, a message popped up on my screen, temporarily distracting me from my spiraling thoughts. It read: Nothing on the news from what I can see. Don't let the news get to you- Mom. Next to the text was a little smiley face and a heart. I allowed myself to relax a bit. I’m sure that in a few weeks no one will even remember this article and we’ll all be on to the next panic- inducing event that will swallow up our time.
I couldn't have been more wrong. A month or so later, news of a deadly disease started to float around school. They called it coronavirus and its origins were unknown. Some said it started because someone in China ate raw bats. Others speculated it was a man-made virus designed for biological warfare. All of a sudden I was overhearing the same conversation in every class:
“Did you hear that someone came down with Corona in Washington?”
“Florida was put on lockdown due to the Coronavirus outbreak.”
“The nurse said that she’s pretty sure I have Coronavirus.”
Kids started wearing masks and gloves to school. Lockers were being filled to the brim with sparkly miniature hand sanitizers from Bath and Body Works. Students were greeting one another by bumping each other's elbow. The mere thought of germs sent people rushing to the bathroom to scrub their hands raw. My social media feed was constantly being flooded with updates on how many people died this past week. Despite my efforts, it was becoming impossible to ignore what was going on.
We got the call from the superintendent that the school was going to be closed for the foreseeable future sometime around early March. We were instructed to keep ourselves socially distant and to practice good hygiene while we awaited further instruction, but of course that’s easier said than done. I’m an introvert at heart, but I still wanted to see my friends and family like everyone else! Needless to say, I was dreading these next few months of online school and fear.
At first, I was depressed, as I imagine all of us are when our world as we know it is being driven to a screeching halt. Despite having plenty of schoolwork to distract me from the rising number of coronavirus cases, I had become frustrated with my homework and decided to blow off some steam by binging YouTube videos instead.
While I was scrolling, I came across multiple channels that showed people serving others at hospitals, supplying masks to staff members, and giving out free food or toilet paper. There were how-to’s on making face makes, crafts to try out at home with kids, and funny music parodies about being stuck inside. I smiled as I watched the clips, realizing how beautiful society can be when we slow down and contemplate what really matters in our lives. We can be compassionate towards one another, it just took a mass pandemic to make us see that.
Even though we're still stuck in quarantine, I'm beginning to adjust to the circumstances. I started exercising, meditating and learned how to manage my time with schoolwork so I don't feel overwhelmed. As one of my favorite YouTubers once said, “We often overestimate what we can accomplish in a day, and underestimate what we can accomplish in a week.” With that in mind, I’m praying that we just take it one day at a time, and remain confident that earth will heal from coronavirus.
Sophia Duffie is an 11th grade student at Niagara Falls High School.