Essay

Dispatch #018

ESCAPE!

By Laura Reyes

9th Grader at Lowell High School, San Francisco, California

“Escape!” yells a student from outside our classroom. It was 7th block English when things took a turn. With no knowledge of what was happening on the outside, my whole classroom transformed into a lock-down protocol. Thoughts of a potential intruder roaming the hallways of Lowell High School made my heart skyrocket. 

Minutes later, the intercom’s infamous beep and Ms.Swett’s voice. Her news, however, was far from what I anticipated. She informed us that a student’s relative had tested positive for COVID-19 and as a result, our school was closing. 

Like fish jumping out of their tanks gasping for air, students rushed out the doors.

I witnessed a combination of glee, anxiety, and fear on my classmates’ faces. I was shaken to my core. What felt like a scene from an action-movie was quickly becoming a new, scary reality. 

From that moment, I knew learning was going to be different in a way that would disconnect us, both physically and mentally. 

As days grew into weeks, the thoughts of returning to school seemed slim. I saw many headlines discussing the transition to distance learning. 

My whole life, I’ve spent most of my time learning in classrooms, raising my hand, collaborating with my tablemates, and hearing different perspectives. During a shelter-in-place, distance learning has proved to be a good alternative but could never replace the same hands-on experience I got in my second-home: school.

Nobody was prepared to face a pandemic. 

Not even the toilet paper rolls were ready to leave the shelves. 

When I heard Gavin Newsom’s order for shelter in place, I realized how severe this problem was. 

The coronavirus not only takes lives, but it also sets upon many challenges to those who are trying to live. 

Many people are losing their jobs and as a result, families struggle to get necessities such as food. 

Healthcare workers risk their lives every day, and it astonishes me that they are endangering themselves for people they don’t know. 

My peach house still stands tall in the middle of the street. The leaves on the trees still sway to the wind and colorful roses still bloom for the spring-time. 

From an alien’s perspective, these days would be nothing out of the extraordinary. This, however, was far from true. 

A new atmosphere emerged in my neighborhood. People would avoid me and I would avoid them. Going for a walk or run felt like I was in a real-life game of Pac-man. It was good that everyone took these precautions seriously. 

If everyone followed the rules to this game, we would all come out as winners. 

I feel lucky that my mom can work from home. Because of this, we were kind of like co-workers. In other words, my mom would pop in and out of my room countless numbers of times, with either a cup of tea or just to say hello.

I’d never imagined that my commute to school would be a few steps away from my bed. This homeschool life has encouraged me to wake up early and attempt to be productive. 

My mornings would start with zoom classes in which consisted of my teachers talking to the muted and faceless screens. Although at times it could be awkward, zoom classes have quickly become the main basis of my social interaction besides social media. 

I appreciate how my teachers have taken account of our current situation and adjusted with the amount of work that is assigned. Many of my assignments have become optional and/ or not seriously graded. This has served as an important life lesson in the “real world.” In life, I realized that there will be many opportunities and resources thrown at you. No one is making you take it. It is up to you if you want to seize it and grow because the only person you are doing this for is yourself.

During the past few months, I’ve found hope through my mom’s pork chops and my grandpa’s Chinese music. Even though I don’t understand a single word, it brings me joy to see that it provides him comfort. In these times of uncertainty, I’ve felt scared and worried that something might happen to my loved ones. I tune out these thoughts by taking each day, one day at a time. 

In my family, nothing can mean more than a home-cooked meal. Especially, since social distancing has prevented us from our usual gatherings where each family would bring their specialty dish. My specialty dish is fresh pesto pasta. 

My aunt works at the General Hospital, and because of this, she has quarantined at a friend’s house who also works there. 

During her lunch breaks, my mom would cook her some of her favorite stir-fried veggies and I would bring it down for her so she could eat it from her car.

These little acts make her happy and that happiness is contagious.

My uncle and my cousin drove from San Jose to give us a whole pot of delicious chicken curry and some other groceries. It means a lot for them to drive out of their way. When I chatted with them from my doorstep, I realized that although social distancing separated us physically, it made us closer in a way.

Living through such a unique time has made me fully appreciate all the little things that make me happy. I’ve found joy through singing karaoke songs in my bedroom, watching cheesy rom-coms, playing ping pong, learning how to moon-walk, cooking, and overall just knowing I have a supportive and caring community behind me. These act as symbols of my resilience because it enables me to keep continuing and living my life. I hope when we are out of quarantine, I will walk out of my house as a stronger and wiser person. 

Although shelter-in-place has proved its difficulties and has spurred many questions among us. I’m definite on one thing. No matter what happens, or what new realities we humans have to adapt to, we won’t be alone.

April 30, 2020

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