by Connor Kockler
During a recent Sunday student mass at St. John’s University, I was reminded of an important fact. It has now been over a year since college students were sent home in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept the world. As we look forward to an eventual end to this crisis, I wanted to reflect on what a year of COVID-19 has done. It has shown us the worst of what can happen, but also it has shown us the best of what people can do in the face of adversity. While I look forward to putting this episode behind us, I know I have certainly learned lessons from it, and I hope that our society as a whole does as well.
This year has felt like an eternity. The week that we were sent home, I clearly remember daily activities and events going on as usual. While COVID was on the radar of an avid newswatcher, it was only a passing topic of conversation for most college students.. On the night of Wednesday, March 11, there was news that universities were starting to cancel classes and send students home. Then the basketball game my roommate and I sat down to watch that night was postponed. And the next day we were being told we would need to start leaving campus on Friday.
In a whirlwind week, I had gone from having the sophomore college experience to being back at home and taking classes online to finish out the spring semester. It felt like being back in high school again, having my class schedule, family activities, and then doing homework at the same desk where I’d done so for all my classes years ago. Mask wearing, social distancing, virtual meetings, the horrific daily numbers of infected and dead showing up on screens all gradually became the norm for us over time. I made the best of it, interning online over the summer, doing virtual networking, and staying productive in online classes. Despite all the complexities of this past year, I feel like it will make me a stronger student and worker in the future because of how we’ve all had to adapt.
While I have learned my own personal lessons from this, I would expect that as a nation we have also learned lessons that can prevent something like this from happening again. After over 500,000 dead and millions infected, we can no longer treat the threat of pandemics as something that can be ignored or neglected in government preparedness. The rapid spread of the disease across the country despite pleadings by health officials to follow basic safety precautions like wearing masks and distancing shows just how much pain we could have been saved just by being more thoughtful and careful. Just how fragile our economy is that tens of millions were put out of work, and that trillions of dollars in aid needed to be passed just to keep families afloat during this crisis shows that we should take steps to create a stronger social safety net.
The efforts of all of the healthcare workers, scientists, and government officials who have worked tirelessly through the pandemic to ensure that people receive proper treatment, and coordinate the distribution of supplies and vaccines should also be highly celebrated. Despite a rising case count and their advice often unheeded, they have shown up to work every day to keep us safe. Going forward, we should recognize these efforts, especially by signing up for a vaccination when we are eligible, to protect ourselves and everyone around us.
While this has been a tough year, I hope that it has shown us a way forward to prevent future pandemics from doing as much damage as COVID-19 has. Overall, we should know now without a doubt that we are all in this together. The actions that we take strongly affect the people around us. Moving forward, we should be sure to keep that front of mind.
Connor Kockler is a student at St. John’s University. He enjoys writing, politics and news, among other interests.