Students’ Open Letters During Coronavirus
Ms. Laura Speicher gave her composition students an assignment to write an "Open Letter" to a recipient of their choice about their experience with this public health crisis.
The following letters were written by students from Mrs. Speicher’s composition class.
Coming from a generation that has experienced and witnessed many shocking and influential events, all I can say is that with time we will heal, and we will become stronger than we have ever been before. Of course, it will take dedication and hours upon hours of consistent hard work, but such efforts are nothing new to the American people. Perhaps it is times like these in which the class of 2020 can be a shining example of light in what seems to be infinite darkness. So to those who are fearful or in doubt of our ability to persist, don’t worry for there have always been setbacks in our tiresome pursuit of success and happiness.For those of us who have encountered several destructive events with such frequency, our memories and life experiences are all but bathed in the pain and struggle of such times. Yet, we are not haunted by these catastrophes. Instead, we are reminded of the fragility of life as well as humanity’s inherent desire to resist it.
So you might wonder why Generation Z is the way it is, and how we can appear to be so desensitized to the horrifying effects of this global pandemic. Well the truth is, losing our senior year of high school, despite being very upsetting, is a small price to pay compared to the many alternatives we have grown up witnessing. From natural disasters to school shootings, we have developed the mindset that no matter how bad the worst-case scenario might be, there is no guarantee it won’t happen. Understanding that makes us aware of our lack of complete control and allows us to adapt quickly to even the most unexpected circumstances. Therefore, instead of wallowing in our misfortune, we face the music, embrace our sorrows through comedy, art, and friendship, and then find a way to make up for our lost opportunities. We are the seniors of 2020, the generation emerging from the 9/11 attacks, and the kids who survived hurricane Katrina, bearing witness to its devastation. We are the 1st graders who first learned the importance of money during the economic crash of 2008, and the children who learned the extent of our vulnerability when 20 elementary students lost their lives in the 2012 Sandy Hook Shooting. We are the young adults who advocated for love and compassion when 49 people lost their lives following the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting and the youth who condemned those responsible for the largest mass shooting in American history during the 2017 Las Vegas shooting.
Lastly, we are the seniors that, despite losing the final months of our last year in high school to a global pandemic, are learning to make the best of this worst-case scenario situation.All of that being said, if there was ever a time to fear for the well-being of this generation, now is not the time. We are fighters, born from the ashes of hate-fueled attack and nourished in a garden of societal evolution. We are compassionate yet strong-willed, we are free-spirited yet disciplined. Therefore, just as flowers begin to bloom from the once barren winter ground, pain and devastation will yield renewal and growth. So don’t worry about us. Even as we mourn the loss of our final high school experiences, we have known greater tragedies. Our generation has learned through experience and we will continue to do so, for our strength and resilience comes from the pain we have already endured.
Dear COVID 19,
On behalf of the millions you’re affecting, the class of 2020, and hurting families, we hate you. What an inconvenience you are bringing to everyone. People are dying because you insist on staying and ruining our lives. The seniors in high school miss one of the biggest milestones in their lives, graduation. Yes, they’ll still graduate and receive diplomas, but they will not get to walk across that stage, signifying that they are strong and smart enough to venture off into the real world, and leave their families to go to college to pursue a lifelong career during adulthood. College seniors don’t get to experience their final graduation, the end to all schooling they ever endured during their entire lives. People are being ripped from their loved ones, becoming just another number that adds to the death count that just exponentially gets worse. People are leaving their jobs, and now with no source of income, they can’t live. Simply saying we’re sad isn’t enough. We feel hate, we feel robbed. There is no positive emotion that you could ever bring. We can’t fight you, not when we are so deeply wounded by your presence. We aren’t able to just put our lives on hold for you, we have things to learn, people to see, money to make, and lives to live. Why can’t you see that you’re hurting everyone around you and just go away?
The Whole World
I am a senior who is currently being affected by this pandemic. For the other classes below mine, please cherish every moment you have to walk through the school halls. We also see the memes and jokes about not having graduation, prom, or really a final goodbye, and to be honest it’s not funny. You don’t know what it’s like to have everything you worked so hard for stripped away from you with no control over it either. It’s almost offensive because we prepared for these last moments for years, and just because you get another chance does not make it okay because you can’t begin to fathom how any of us seniors feel. For some of us, it was our last chance to be a kid before we had to grow up and mature. Now for most of us, we have to grow up right now and start looking at the next chapter in life.
For underclassmen, don’t think that your last is always guaranteed. I now realize that it is not. Having my last goodbye stolen from me hurts. I won’t ever walk the halls of a high school feeling like I am the coolest dude on the planet. Now begins a new chapter for me. I would love to thank everyone who has taught me how to be a better man. High school taught me nothing because I remember nothing, but it taught me who I want to be as a man. The social interactions, conflicts, and resolutions taught me who I need to be going out into this world.
High school will hold some painful memories but also the great ones. I hope I touched everyone in some sort of positive way and made you feel like you were someone that mattered. I hope that I taught you some lessons about life that you actually use someday. I hope that I won’t be forgotten.
To every agoraphobic, anxiety ridden, overly apprehensive person out there – I feel for you. Some of us lived every day in our homes before; some of us even still did before this tragedy. Coronavirus is a step back for us. While we may be terrified out of our minds on a daily basis, loads of us were still able to go to school, or to work. Maybe even both. Some of us spent years at home, trying to get out, and we finally made it! We finally were able to live a semi-normal life, only for it to be thrown back in our faces. Almost as if this pandemic is mocking us and telling us we can never be normal. We can never live an average life, for we are doomed to stay cooped up in our homes for eternity and not truly experience the world. To everyone who feels that way, I understand.
Our peers complain of missing their friends, missing going out to dinner, to the mall, basically anywhere on a normal basis. There are kids struggling with the transition to online classes, and parents struggling with working from home. But we know how to handle this. We’ve prepared for this. We lived, and we can continue to live this way. I know how to do my schooling online. I know how to keep connections with people online. I did this for years. I should be happy to be comfortable in this situation… but I’m not. I’m comfortable. Comfortable being at home all day, comfortable not being around people and working online. You’re probably comfortable too. To most people, it sounds like a good thing – but to us, it’s much more menacing. People don’t understand people like us, who wake up hours early so we can hype ourselves up to go somewhere for the day. People like us, who can hardly breathe throughout the day, and all we can think about sometimes is when we get to go home. When the suffering will be over. It’s overwhelming. And this situation has made us comfortable, but we can’t let it win.
Once worldwide self-isolation is over, we need to make sure we can stop self-isolating too. Try to reach out to peers, so you have something to encourage you to come back from this. Try to spend time outside if you can, so you don’t feel cooped up. Don’t get used to this again. This isn’t back to square one for us if we don’t let it be. Exposure is extremely important for people like us to exist in this world. We have to face our fears, and gradual exposure was how we got to where we were. Over time, we will fall back into our old patterns, and we won’t want to go back to how it was before this pandemic. But you need to fight like you did the first time. When you got tired of being the weird kid, the kid who never left the house, the kid who nobody talked to, you fought. And it’ll be time to fight again soon. And we will not lose this battle. We’ve won before, so let’s do it again.
I first off just want to say that I’m sorry. I know that I’m a part of this class as well and that I have nothing to apologize for, but still. I am so deeply sorry. I’m apologizing because I know of the sadness I’m going through because of all of this and acknowledge the fact that a lot of you are feeling the exact same way. I think that’s what makes this whole thing a little bit easier to deal with. The idea of knowing that no one is unaffected. We truly are all in this together. But still, that doesn’t take away from the fact that this isn’t fair and we were robbed. We were so close to the finish line only to be dragged away from the race as we saw the whole track being burned and destroyed, and all we could do was watch from our bedroom windows. The countless hours we’ve spent putting our blood, sweat, and tears into our work, and the sleepless nights we’ve had working on essays and projects are being deemed meaningless. It seems as though it was all for nothing. The rewards we were so happy to receive are now being thrown away and shredded. We put in so much energy, worked so hard for 4 years, and this is it? This is all we get in return? It hurts and it breaks my heart. People say, “Look on the bright side! Now you get to do activities and hobbies that you didn’t ever have the time for!” What those people fail to understand is that our whole lives practically revolved around school. I don’t mean that all of our time just went to classes and homework. I’m talking about clubs, sports, and friends . We spent six plus hours, five days a week, under one roof for four years. Half of the “activities” that we did were at school. So now, what are we meant to do with ourselves? All a majority of us do now is homework, go on walks, and stay up until 2am.
I feel especially bad for those of you with any mental health issues. I’ve seen multiple people say how their mental health is deteriorating and how their depression and anxiety is really taking a toll on them. I also am upset for those of you who stayed at school a lot to escape your homes. I hate how that’s unfortunately the reality for some. I just want you to know that things are going to get better, and please try to stay safe.Before I end this letter, I do want to bring a more optimistic approach to this. A lot of us right now are feeling hopeless about the end of the school year for us. This was something we were all looking forward to. But, I just want you to imagine the day that you finally hear that COVID-19 is gone, and that there’s finally some form of vaccine and the lockdown is lifted. That’s what keeps me going. The day where I can finally step outside of my house and hug my friends again. It may seem as though that day isn’t going to be here for a while, but please keep your heads high and the day will be here sooner than you know. Also for the love of everything good in the world, PLEASE PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING. I understand that some of you are having a really hard time staying at home, and you feel alone, but for the safety of your loved ones and yourself, try to stay at home or any place deemed safe as much as possible and FaceTime your friends.
I remember hearing about you in your early stages. Everything was still intact, and the world was moving normally. A plethora of jokes were being made about you, which included being “too strong”, or being immune because it hadn’t affected us young people. We all brushed you off of our shoulders.
Here we are now. You have stripped me down to my core. I am no longer allowed to finish my senior year in person. The long-awaited moment of walking across the stage and getting handed my diploma is now a moment I will never get to experience. You stripped me of my job, in which I got to interact with multiple people, helping put smiles on their faces when they came to buy shoes. You stripped me of my friends, who I had just gotten a little closer to. You stripped me of my well-being.
You’ve made people, all people, infected. You might not have given them your virus, but you’ve infected them with turmoil and panic. I saw the panic in the grocery stores. I saw the panic in the empty shelves at CVS, where gloves and masks used to be. I’ve seen the panic in the essential workers, the doctors and nurses, the scientists, and the government, who are all working profusely to keep the panic calm.
I often find myself mad at the world and building up an indescribable hatred every time I hear your name. It’s all anyone talks about. I want to watch the news and hear marvelous news about the world. I want to be able to interact with other individuals again, but because of you, I don’t know when that will be.
I have become completely unmotivated, but should I be able to blame that on you, or should I take these hard times and learn from them? Should I spend more time with my family at home or maybe read books, or even find a new hobby? I have all these things to distract myself, yet I cannot get you off of my mind.
I don’t know when you’ll leave, or even if you’ll leave, but make a decision soon. You’ve hurt a lot of us, and we are ready to move on. Once you leave, you will never be forgotten, and society will be changed forever, or maybe you won’t leave, and we’ll have to adapt to you forever. Whatever the case may be, I would just like to have my life back.I want my life back.
Sierra Adams, a completely fed-up teenager