Dear COVID-19 – Opinion

Dear COVID-19, 

I, like many others, underestimated You. The moment You emerged in Wuhan, China, I turned a blind eye towards You. I didn’t believe You would have any impact on my life whatsoever. Although in the beginning, I didn’t understand the extent people in China were suffering, my life seemed to go on as usual. A few weeks later, You emerged in Europe. I questioned my parents asking how a virus that spurred in China could have spread to Europe, killing millions of people. I was worried about whether it would come to the United States. My parents just laughed at me, saying I was overreacting. My family and friends reassured me that You wouldn’t come anywhere near me.

While You killed hundreds in Italy, my friends and I were planning on fun activities to do if the school closes in case You came to Pasadena. Our community believed You would not get a hold of us, so we ignored the warnings sent to us. We did not have the slightest understanding of how You would really affect our lives.

Soon enough, You infected the United States, shocking every American who convinced themselves this was not supposed to happen. Malaria didn’t hit the US; Ebola didn’t hit the US, so why should we believe COVID-19 would come? 

Once You took a toll on the US, states finally took steps to prepare themselves for the “highly unlikely chance” You came directly to them. A week later, Your grasp had reached the Golden State, my home. I didn’t notice, neither did my friends. We were still instilled with the mentality that “this could never happen to me.” My parents started to emphasize washing hands when getting home from school and keeping from sharing food with anyone. Days later, You stealthily got to LA. 

The more innocent people You infected, the more You fueled the fear in parents. I couldn’t grapple with the idea that a virus could travel 6,880 miles in less than a month, harming so many along the way. At the start, You tricked us by targeting the elderly, making us think we could fight You would leave our children alone. You gave my friends and me a reason why we shouldn’t care if You did come to Pasadena because we wouldn’t be hurt.  My school was adamant to stay open, believing You would not even come close to Los Angeles. All the teens in Pasadena did want the school to close but not because of You. Our selfish teenage minds wanted to shop, go to the beach, and party all night. We viewed You like a little blip on the world’s radar

Soon enough, You found Your way to Pasadena. Posters in my school about handwashing were plastered on every bathroom wall. Hand sanitizer was nearing a whopping $99 on Amazon. People turned into wild animals, fighting for the last rolls of toilet paper in Target. Ralph’s had to put a limit on the number of water cases per customer. One would be convinced we were preparing for war. I remember a few days after You hit Pasadena, I went into Trader Joe’s with my dad. Shelves that used to be filled with bread were empty. The frozen aisle was reduced to mainly blank white space with a stranded bag of string beans. Every place in the store that used to be overflowing with food was bare. I was speechless. How could one virus impact the lives of millions?  

The day my school announced it would be shutting down, the Mayfield gym was filled with cheers from all of my classmates. Online school sounded terrific to all of us because it initially meant we would have more time to hang with friends as did all the other teenagers of Los Angeles. However, You insured our time away from school was not going to be the fun and games like we had hoped.

My parents, like others, would not let me socialize with my friends outside of the house or go to any public places. What was thought to be a time to have fun with my friends turned into days of longing to go back to school. You made me feel trapped. 

You shut down amusement parks, restaurants, and shopping centers. You ended high school sports seasons, NBA games, and concerts. You took away the moment of a father seeing his daughter all dressed for prom. You took away the indescribable feeling of graduating high school. You took away the last few memorable moments high school seniors had with one another. The swimmer who lost her opportunity to qualify for the Olympic trials, the softball player who would never get to play her senior game, and the younger sister who would never get to see her dying older brother due to travel bans, was all because of You.

My teacher told me to try to view Your actions as our version of 9/11. Although You are not exactly like 9/11, You were a wakeup call to our world just like 9/11 and we will forever be impacted by you. You woke up the Public Health System, You woke up the Center for Disease Control, and You woke up the 7.53 billion people in the world.

You, this sickness, this disease, this pandemic, will forever change the way our world views the most cherished moments in life.

Gracie Sandman