In this work, Antonio Perez, WHSAD Senior and Editor-in-Chief and founder of WHSAD’s school newspaper, The Column, provides his personal feelings regarding the school shut-down. His thoughts reveal the heartbreak many of WHSAD’s seniors, and seniors across the city, state, and country, are experiencing due to the consequences of the pandemic.
I still remember the days leading up to the school closures. I still vividly remember not only the day I found out, but the morning after. The emptiness and silence of the train car as I returned to New York, my empty soul staring out the window. When I found out schools were closed until possibly April 20th I was in bliss, I instantly called Jonah and Ariana, and words couldn’t describe the feelings we had at the moment. Not that we didn’t like school or want to be there, but hearing that we were getting a break for basically a month sounded relaxing. Although, that was how we initially felt, and then we all thought about it and very quickly, our happiness and excitement came crashing down in front of us. We realized what this meant for us, for our education, for our families, for our jobs, for our lives. That was scary and overwhelming, and that night I fell asleep with a thousand thoughts on my mind: what did the future have in store for me and my life. As for my friends and my family, and work, and school? I went to sleep, hoping that I would wake up with answers and in the cloudiness of the New Jersey sky I found no resolution. In the house with my cousins where I should have felt happy, I was lost, staring into the abyss for minutes on end. I eventually left. I was coming back to a very different New York than the one I left from on Friday night. A New York of people just as lost and confused as me. I don’t believe it was just me, but the energy that day was a polar opposite of what I experienced on Monday. The juxtaposition of Penn Station, 34 St. – Herald Square, the streets of West 33rd did not feel the same. I tried to create hope in my head for the future, find optimism within the walls of those buildings, hope within the view of the people on the street, lit up underneath the Empire State Building, but it wasn’t there. My uneasiness and discomfort triumphed over any type of hope I could have at the moment.
While getting home did help ease my mind and bring me some peace, I couldn’t help but feel uncertain of whatever prospects the future holds. What are the long term effects of the school closures and what does this mean for the future of our education, and our world? Is a return to normalcy possible? How and when will we as a society start to build ourselves back up, re-open our stores, continue our lives? When? My friends and family were well aware of the implication that a virus like COVID-19 could have on our lifestyles, yet this, our new reality, seemed surreal and impossible. Although, here we are. To try to label my feelings with one emotion right now would be inconceivable, I’m feeling everything I thought I ever could and some: Anger, Sadness, Confusion, Optimism, Fear, Happiness, Joy, and Hope. How we as a society managed to get to this point is disappointing. While I do understand why we had to self-quarantine and essentially shut down our whole lifestyle, I wish our society was proactive and not reactive. Why should we wait till hundreds have died and thousands are infected, to make change? Time is everything, and it angers me to my very core, to know that if we had had a quicker and smarter reaction April 20th could be a possibility. However, because of how late and rather poor our response was not only does April 20th not look possible but so does Graduation, the Senior Trip, Senior Breakfast, and so much more. What I would do to go back, to be in school for the last time. The place I loved like it was my home, because it was, I loved WHSAD with every bone in my body. I could have gotten 1 hour of sleep and even woke up in a bad mood but getting off of Bedford Ave. and seeing WHSAD, and the people I love, nothing could ever top that. And it’s sad because my last day wasn’t something monumental but it felt like every other day. If only I had known. How much more I would have savored and appreciated the school that day, and the people around me. My heart aches in pain knowing that I can’t do anything to see these people, these people that have formed the very person I am today. The fact of the matter is I loved these people, my friends were more like family, and to not be able to see them under any circumstances, I have no words. Every time I go back to the week and that day, I wish we had done more, because if any of us knew what was truly coming and how fast it would hit us, I know there wouldn’t be a second that we would be apart.
The week of March 13th was an exciting week, as of the beginning we had believed that the Senior Trip was going to happen the week after, and to say we were excited was an understatement. My friends and I had been talking of this event and our plans for months. Every time we were together it found a way to come up in our discussions. We were so excited and then Thursday came and we found out, and I know how this is going to sound, but it’s the truth. In the hallway when we found out the trip was delayed, I felt nothing, I felt empty. It’s as if so many emotions were flooding my mind and I couldn’t handle nor understand them. I saw my friends and their faces and we all looked the same, empty and lost. That was by far not the last time that month that we would feel that way. My friends and I tried to grasp everything we had left, making plans and grand ideas of the future to compensate for our recent loss, and even then, we had no idea of what was to come. It’s now Friday, the last day, the problem was that it felt like a classic WHSAD day if you want me to be honest. And while that by itself is definitely not an issue, the issue is for a possible last day, it should have been bigger and more memorable. Goodbyes and farewells, yet what do I remember from that day, what did I do that day? For a regular day, it was amazing, but for THE last day, heartbreaking. So much more that needed to be done and said, so many people I may never see again, words I may never get to say, feelings I may never get to feel again. What I would trade to be able to be in WHSAD and be able to make choices, bad ones, good ones, everything. The chance to have choices.
To order Chinese Food 7th period and eat as Codio stares into our soul with the most serious face you have ever seen.
To leave work and buy Chipotle and Shake Shack and almost fall asleep in Muji.
To clock in after school and work while talking for 3 hours with the people I love.
To work for WHSAD and try my best to better the lives of the students who walk through those halls everyday.
To make money because of WHSAD and be able to save up for my college education.
To be in that chair in front of the computer doing nothing but talking and listening to the same Spotify Playlist on repeat.
I miss that, I miss everything. To go back to when I was in my little bubble with my friends where all of the world’s problems couldn’t reach us. Where we could be us, and I could be me. I am more than aware of the position that I am in, compared to thousands of people around the world right now what’s happening to me is superficial. I understand that. There are people losing everything, themselves, their families, friends, livelihoods, so for me to sit here and write for an hour speaking of my experience and my feelings, I could understand why one would think that I am being selfish or arrogant but that is simply how I feel. I am able to both acknowledge what is going on in the world and still be upset that my Senior Year, my last year being with all these people I love, has essentially disappeared in front of my eyes. Because when I found out that schools will be closed until at least April 20, but could also stay closed for significantly longer , it felt like my world was falling apart. This event has put our whole existence in perspective and forced us to open our eyes and talk about matters that are important, not because we want to but because we have to. So many of us live in a little bubble, thinking that could never be us, up until the very moment it is you and then what do you do? Because the truth is you don’t know, you’re not prepared for this, you’ve never had to face a challenge like this. I hope that once we all make it out of this pandemic, that we come out better than we went in. If something good could come out of this, please let it be that we as a society are more united and in sync than ever before.