Perspective: Fridays with Doug

Commiserating with the seniors

Sitting at my computer, which is at home instead of work, I’m not sure how to put into words the feelings I have for high school seniors.

I know that I feel bad for them. I know that this situation doesn’t seem fair.

How could the threat of being sick take away the glorious moments of a final year of schooling?

The second semester of your senior year is supposed to be the capstone to your high school experience, the icing on the cake, the goal finally achieved.

How can it be that you have been robbed of those ultimate experiences? Things like pranks on underclassmen and maybe teachers or the administration, senior skip day, Prom, spring play, concerts, awards ceremonies, graduation and spring and possibly summer sports. I’m sure there are events I am leaving out.

The senior year should be the best of the 13 years you have spent in the education system.

I went out for track all four years and made state my junior and senior year. At state my senior year, I was part of the 4x200 meter relay that placed third and set a school record that stood for 20 years.

It was fun to go back to school events and point out my name on the wall.

I am saddened that you seniors won’t be able to experience these events like so many graduating classes before you have experienced.

At the same time, you will be an unique graduating class with a claim to fame that no one will ever forget. The fact that you will have overcome this terrible obstacle and not let it define your four years will be an incredible achievement. I encourage you to revel in this experience and not let it be a disappointment. Use it for fuel.

Maybe start some kind of new tradition of a parade in your cars or a social distancing picnic at the rocket slide that would cover the entire park. Set up in the town square and celebrate just how different this graduating senior class is from all others, from every other.

The coronavirus death toll nationwide in the United States has now surpassed that of every other country.

The death toll in the state of New York from the novel coronavirus surpassed the number of people who died from the terrorist attack in New York City on September 11, 2001. The 9/11 attack killed 2,753 people at the site of the World Trade Center. As of Tuesday morning, 3,202 people in New York City had died from COVID-19.

As of Thursday, the death total in the United States from the virus was around 75,000. Last week, total deaths edged past the Korean War total. And as of Wednesday, officially, more Americans have died from the coronavirus than in the Vietnam War (58,220).

All comparisons between dissimilar events carry pitfalls — mostly because of the various circumstances.

The main problem with the comparison between the coronavirus death toll and different armed conflicts is that those conflicts were, depending upon your perspective, elective events.

The coronavirus, by contrast, was not elective. It was something that was coming to American shores no matter how aggressive the early response. It was a situation that was thrust upon us, in many ways, because of how interconnected our planet is.

Maybe you seniors know that these personal disappointments are a small price to pay to help end a global pandemic. But for young people whose lives have been defined by school since the age of five — who were on a path to high school graduation before they knew the word “commencement” — it is a stunning reversal of fortune, their — to this point — lifetime goal disappearing in a series of suspensions, announcements, then cancellations.

Like every senior class before them, the Class of 2020 was supposed to enjoy the long goodbye of their final semester in high school. It was a promise made to them as lowly freshmen. It is a deeply American teenage tradition. They would be, at long last, the kings and queens of their domain, strutting the halls in a final victory lap before marching off into adult life.

Instead, the high point of their lives has crashed to an unthinkable low, and turned to heartbreak. Everything from spring sports to plays has been snuffed out. Their class now has the unfortunate distinction of being the first graduates to be sent off without the proper goodbyes to teachers, mentors, and friends. The passing of yearbooks to be signed could now instead be passing a deadly contagion. Instead of treasured memories, they have scraps hastily gathered from lockers.

Every adult can look back at their high school days and say how they would have done things differently. That sentiment has been taken from the seniors in the Class of 2020. They had no choice.

Records and memories of another year as fundamentally disrupted as 2020 do not exist. High school was always there for generations through wars, depressions, and even disease (polio, smallpox, mumps) outbreaks.

This pandemic has created unforeseen challenges, ending the school careers of many, not with a bang but a whimper, a cough, a sneeze and a daily update of tested, confirmed, recovered and dead.