The world seemed a lot simpler just 16 days ago.
It was Saturday night of Spring Sing weekend. Several hundred students, their family members, faculty and alumni packed into Baugh Auditorium as the final awards and results from Spring Sing 2020 were announced.
Families went out to eat. Folks traveled in from near and far to see the performance. Clubs crammed into tight corners as they waited to take the stage. The “six-feet rule” and “social distancing” were foreign concepts.
Flash forward to today, March 23. We are in the midst of a global pandemic. More than 300,000 people worldwide have contracted COVID-19, a respiratory illness which brings mild symptoms for most but deadly complications for others, typically the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
Classes will be held online for the remainder of the semester due to the pandemic. The spring graduation ceremony has been postponed. Movie theaters, libraries, malls and gyms in Oklahoma City and across the United States are closed. The restaurants which remain open are drive-thru and carryout only.
It is a lot to take in, especially for us graduating seniors. Our final five weeks of college life, where we anticipated going to banquets and planning graduation parties and sharing final moments with friends, are no longer.
The spring graduation ceremony, where our friends and family gather together and we are honored for the countless hours of work we put in to earn our degree, has been postponed indefinitely. In about a month we will take our last final from home and with little fanfare be pushed into a volatile economy wrecked by coronavirus.
Do not get me wrong; the university has absolutely taken the right and necessary step to close campus indefinitely and hold classes online. Strong and swift action is necessary in order to flatten the curve and stop the spread of COVID-19. Five or 10 years from now, we should not have the regret of “we could have done more” to stop the spread of the coronavirus and prevent unnecessary deaths.
With that being said, it is OK to be disappointed as we finish the final five weeks of the spring semester online. The circumstances we have been dealt, for lack of a better word, suck. They are unprecedented. We have not dealt with such a disruptive and deadly pandemic in the United States since at least 1918. No one could have ever predicted an event of this magnitude cutting our college experience short.
It is OK to be disappointed. But we must realize we will eventually be honored as graduates in some way, and we will reunite with our friends again soon. This event, whether it lasts two months or two years, is temporary.
For now, we have to take this pandemic seriously.
Last week, CBS News interviewed several college students who continued to congregate in large crowds at the beach for spring break despite CDC warnings against such gatherings. Their responses were overwhelmingly ignorant and selfish.
“If I get corona, I get corona,” said one spring breaker. “At the end of the day, I’m not going to let it stop me from partying.”
Your party time is worth more than the lives of your grandparents. Got it.
Until the spread of COVID-19 starts to decline significantly, we must question every interaction we have and ask “is this necessary?” We must stay at home as much as possible. It can be boring and monotonous, I know, but there are lives at stake.
Some day we will tell our children and grandchildren about the great coronavirus outbreak. We will talk about how every school closed and professional sports came to a grinding halt for months. About how social events were canceled and the economy took a major hit.
I would much rather talk about how boring things were than how many people died because people refused to take coronavirus seriously.