Where Are We Now?

Where Are We Now? by Ilana Drank - Photo by Ruby Stillman

When we heard about it in Wuhan, it wasn’t big. We ignored it and focused on the colorful Christmas lights and the holiday season. We traveled for Christmas break and didn’t stop to think about how “clean” the plane was. We sat in chairs on an overcrowded beach. The sun above made the day bright, and all we saw was the ocean. We were positive we couldn’t see anything else.

We believed in “2020 vision” and we scrolled through social media, looking at all the new captions for the New Year. We hoped it would be like the “roaring twenties,” an age of happy times. Boy, we had that idea in our heads, and we didn’t see this coming. We didn’t see this “new normal.”

How do you know an event is real if it doesn’t affect you? You don’t until it hits you and your life is shaken. It’s a wake up call with a loud whistle that hurts your ears. You’re awake. You are up. You are aware.

We didn’t know it was our last day of school. We watched the colleges close and the private schools close and the other school systems close. We started to read the news like it was the only way we could survive the day. We recited the number of cases in New York City, then New York State, in math class each morning in March.

We spent the weekend in fear of what was happening to our city. We watched the unemployment rates skyrocket and we saw masks become the new trend. Outside was the “unknown,” but we were in the sun.

We sat at our desks in fear and panic. A person is not immune if they are young. That was our false sense of security. When school was cancelled on that Sunday afternoon, we knew that this was real, serious, and scary. Our schools were shut and we saw that our lives were going to be different.

How do you recognize the last time you will do something? How do you know your last day of school, if it isn’t the day that was planned on the school calendar? How do you know the last time you eat at a restaurant? How do you know the last day you will take the subway and see some talented dancers do tricks using the handle bars?
We are living in uncertainty and we have to accept that.

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Ilana Drake is a member of the class of 2025 at Vanderbilt and is a student activist and writer. Ilana is a Rising Voices Fellowship alumna (2019-2020). Her work has been seen in The Tennessean, PBS NewsHour, and Ms. Magazine, and she is currently on YR Media's Content Creator Council.
Accompanying photo: “Chicago” by Ruby Stillman