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Editorials

Notes from Day 365: Requiem for a Lost Year

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On March 10, 2020, our board met for our regularly scheduled Tuesday night Editorial meeting at 14 Plympton Street, bewildered and broken-hearted. Today, our abandoned conference room is filled with suitcases, stacks of books, and hard-to-store box fans instead of its usual conversation and warmth: the crime scene of a stolen year, frozen in time.

We spent hours in that room the night we learned of our looming Covid eviction, compelled in part by a sense of duty to find the right words to describe an earth-shattering day, and in part to cling to a community that suddenly felt fleeting.

Under varying levels of sobriety, we planned and produced a series of three staff editorials published in the following days — our attempt to preserve the opinions and emotions swirling around the room. As we reread and thus relive them, the memory of us all sitting together aches. Some of the opinions we published that week aged poorly, but choosing to still gather as a board during those chaotic, pressing, precious days — as a group of classmates and friends who knew that something was coming to an end — was perfect.

One year later, we are still opining over Zoom.

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Many of us had never felt a sense of community at Harvard as strongly as we did when we were grasping onto it during those fateful final days. Campus life as we knew it was melting away, yet campus, collectively, was truly never warmer. Unabashed revelry, bonding over collective pain, helping our roommates pack, and saying goodbye to every last person we knew (we didn’t really know what social distancing meant yet, and hugged without caution) defined our last week. The palpable care and altruism that sprung up bred treasured moments of joy and companionship. We’ve often returned to these memories.

While time has often felt static or inverted since — many of us have called into editorial meetings from bedrooms laden with stuffed animals and other childhood relics — amid the disruption and tragedy of this year, growth and reflection have happened. Where better to reflect on how college has changed you than your childhood bedroom? This maturation crystalized as, in our fled-to homes, removed from frantic campus, we’ve stewed.

We can’t imagine the insights that stillness brought us will be forgotten when normal life (whatever that means) resumes. Still, growth does not redeem tragedy.

Ultimately, almost every student’s experience over the past 365 days has been defined by hardships. We will have to process the pandemic in our own way, in our own time. Some of us will be drawn to finding silver linings. Others might reject all attempts at optimism as toxic contortions of reality. The number of ways to respond are endless and all valid — after all, who can say what’s the right or wrong way to make sense of the unfathomable?

The University has tried its best to maintain morale. We’re deeply appreciative of the peers, staff, and faculty who, in their dedication to reimagining community, have made lonely pandemic life more okay, enabling more joy than would exist in their absence.

But as a whole, our board’s response to this strange anniversary — how has it been a whole year? has it only been one? — is one of collective sorrow. We look back with sober eyes and see that March 10 was a life-altering day for all of us, even if we didn't know it yet.

That Tuesday, we lost an entire reality. We lost our rooms and our friends and our city — some even lost our country. We lost the certainty of knowing where we would find ourselves in the days to come. We bid farewell to the safety and comfort of our youth. Every last inch of our college experience — both what it was and all that we hoped it could be — was replaced by a strange virtual landscape and new lives we were expected to navigate.

And so we find ourselves needing to take stock of the losses amassed over the past year; to grieve the big and the small. To mourn the ones we lost to the virus, to closed borders, graduations, and distance. But also to ache for the minute and mundane. The small details that simply slipped away under shattering upheaval.

Twelve months later, we miss the faces that we cannot remember. We miss the once close friends with whom we, exhausted from online communications, have lost touch — perhaps gone for good. We miss the live presence of our over-enthusiastic but endearing instructors: the ones who were eager to not only teach but also to fill their lecture halls with energy and passion and heart. We miss the people with whom we were only beginning to forge friendships during that fated March. We miss our international peers who, trapped behind sealed borders, have been forcefully detached from our community. We miss our acquaintances and our lab partners and our mentors. We miss all that could have been. Who might we have bumped into on campus in this virtual year? What memories and friendships might we have made? These phantom losses of the pandemic are overwhelming.

Hopefully, our campus will approach normalcy soon enough. But what then? Return will not be repair. Out of the four classes that left campus on the week of March 10, only two will return, and to a campus full of strangers. Most of our peers will have graduated: Commencement by Zoom, diploma by mail. So much torch-passing and closure simply have not been. How do we pick back up and start again?

Of those returning to Harvard, only seniors will have spent a whole year on campus. Juniors will have chosen their concentrations online. Sophomores will join their Houses in blocking groups forged in estranged circumstances, having never set foot in a Harvard academic building.

The fact is that even if everything turns out just fine — even if, in five months time, we are able to safely join together in crowds, partake in classes, and live a maskless life, our college experience will remain a two-act play with a painful break. A single whole irreparably split in half.

We know our hearts will stay a little bit broken until we are able to gather in our frozen meeting room again.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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