It felt like there was finally a glimmer of hope, a light at the end of a year-and-a-half long tunnel.
The end of this past summer offered us something that we didn’t know if we would ever truly see again: a normal school year. No masks. No social distancing. We could put the pandemic behind us and move forward with a renewed appreciation for life and school. At least, that was our plan. With the Delta variant surging across the nation come the first week of school, however, we were back to square one, and our grand desire for normalcy was shattered.
For many of us, the longevity of this pandemic has caused us to forget what we truly defined as normal. Was it when we didn’t have to wear masks or stand six feet apart? Was it when we didn’t have words like “pandemic” and “masks” in our everyday vocabulary? Or was it when more than 641,000 Americans were still alive? Most of us can mutually agree that when Covid-19 is truly over, society will return to “normal,” at least physically. Masks will not be worn 24/7, nor will people be separated by plastic barriers. Mental normalcy, on the other hand, is something we will need to work extra hard to achieve, if we ever actually achieve it at all. The hardships we have endured these past 18 months will not be forgotten. Normal as we once knew it can never be obtained again, as we have become far too damaged by our loss of life, extreme political divides and lack of memories made.
No words can truly describe the tragic losses we’ve experienced because of COVID-19. As of Sep. 2, around 641,725 people have lost their battle with the virus. It seems that every day there is a new story about a family who has lost their loved one to Covid. The statistics may appear as just numbers, but each of those numbers was somebody’s friend, parent, child or sibling. Our society can never return to normal after the pandemic because for those people who did lose someone, their lives will never again be the same. Whether it was a police lieutenant who spent his free time coaching or a labor and delivery nurse with five children, so many leaders have passed due to Covid, forever changing their respective communities and forever posing the question of what the future would have looked like with them in it.
Ever since COVID-19 shut the nation down in March of 2020, Americans have been split on the guidelines and safety protocols that came with the pandemic. While one side agrees with policies such as mask mandates and vaccination requirements, the other side strongly opposes them. With each side passionately believing in their opinions, it is easy to see why our society has such a lack of unity. Protests have broken out across the nation, causing upheaval in school board meetings, city halls and public streets. One protest in Los Angeles even resulted in multiple fights and a protestor getting stabbed. These political conflicts have grown so intense that simply engaging in discourse and trying to mend our relationships will not work. Whether it be for not taking COVID-19 seriously or trying to take personal liberties away, both sides will harbor resentment for each other many years after. The pandemic is a topic many will not forget, and as a result, politics in our society will remain extremely divided even after this crisis is over.
One aspect of this pandemic most people can agree on is the unfortunate deficit of memories made and experiences had. The last class to have a regular high school graduation was the class of 2019. Current seniors in high school have not had a normal school year since their freshman year, and the junior class has not had a normal year of high school at all. This pandemic has caused so many young people to lose valuable time that could have been used for making core memories. High school and college only happen once, and are often the times when young adults make long-lasting friendships and have once-in-a-lifetime experiences. In the future, the current generation will not have these memories to look back on, and will instead be constantly reminded of how COVID-19 impacted their lives when they were young.
Not everyone is quick to denounce this year of missed opportunities, however. English teacher Lee Norment, along with many others, know that sometimes it’s more beneficial to look at things in a better light.
“It’ll be totally unique from other generations, like high school stories,” Norment said. “They’re all basically the same story told over and over again. This is one of the first times that anybody has actually had a unique high school experience compared to other generations that have come before you. I feel like it will be an incredibly powerful story to share with your children and grandchildren.”
Society will never return to the normal we once knew for a multitude of reasons, but it’s crucial to not sink into the despair of our current situation. We have lost loved ones, watched our nation divide itself over politics and had a year of potential memories and experiences wasted. However, we have also grown as a society and as people. During these turbulent times, we have leaned on one another for support and comfort, and have gained a newfound appreciation for spending time with friends and families. Communities have banded together and companies have reached out in ways never seen before. We have seen each other at our lowest. While our lives may never go back to what they once were, we should carry the lessons and values that have been learned into the future and reconstruct a better, “normal” world.