“That Altogether Distant Threat:” The Rookery Staff Reflects on Twelve Months of the Coronavirus

Devan Tatlow, 9th grade

This past year has been a year of separation, pain, and division. We have seen division in our country increase, seen people politicize this pandemic and attack the heart of our democracy. We have been stuck home behind screens, unable to be with each other. Schools, shops, and restaurants have closed, and travel has all but ceased. I have never met most of my classmates or stepped inside the Walls building.

With the vaccine rollout, we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We will move past this, rebuild, and return to our lives. But we cannot replace everyone we have lost. To misquote the adage, "one death is a tragedy, more than half a million are a statistic." This year has irrevocably altered the lives of many families, like my own, that experienced these tragedies. For us, these deaths cannot be and will not be a statistic. As we move forward, we must learn from this year; we cannot afford letting it become yet another historical footnote.


Gabriel Kraemer, 10th grade

It’s been a year. More than a year since December 31, 2019, when the government in Wuhan first reported treating some sort of pneumonia; since January 6, 2020, when I first heard about the virus from the first story about it in the New York Times; since January 11, 2020, when the first death was officially disclosed. A year since February 11, 2020, when the W.H.O. gave the virus the once-obscure name “COVID-19;” since, a month later, they officially declared the outbreak a “pandemic”. And a year since Friday, March 13, when—for me—that altogether distant threat became immediate reality with DCPS’s original two-week school closure.

I had no idea that I wouldn’t enter a Walls classroom again for more than a few weeks, much less a full year. People have told me that it seems like we’ve been living in the pandemic forever, that it’s hard to imagine that long-ago time when we had no masks, no restrictions, no concerns about the virus’s spread. But I feel as if time hasn’t passed since last March: We’re still just waiting uncertainly for the world to return.


Mikayla Wolf, 10th grade

A year of the coronavirus pandemic has been a year of firsts. The first year where I haven’t gone to school. The first year that I didn’t celebrate holidays with my family. The first year that I haven’t been able to hang out with friends at home. The coronavirus had made me think of all the things that I took for granted. Things like going out to restaurants, being able to see friends, and playing sports. COVID-19 has been hard for everyone. Hopefully, 2021 will get better and this will be the last of the coronavirus.


Tess Buckley, 10th grade

The coronavirus pandemic showed me that, while the United States prides itself on its scientific might, we were ill-equipped to face this challenge. While the COVID-19 vaccine was produced in record time, the U.S.’s first response was flat-footed and its vaccine rollout leaves much to be desired.

The government’s response also spotlighted the inequality within the healthcare system, along both racial and socioeconomic lines. Although our response was flawed, the way our society has demonstrated an ability to adapt makes me hopeful that we will be able to implement solutions for challenges yet to come.


Jennifer Nehrer, 11th grade

I’m sure everyone reading this has had the experience of being the only one who really works in a group project and getting a lower grade because no one else cooperated. (If you don’t… I have bad news.)

One year ago, Dr. Fauci told us, “Do your part, wear a mask, stay home as much as possible and social distance when you have to leave the house.” We were given simple guidelines that, had everyone followed them, would have gotten us back to near-normal within months. One year later, I have yet to step foot into my school building.

It feels like the United States is working on one big group project to make it through the pandemic. Some of us are doing our jobs: We follow the guidelines, we stay home when possible, and we wear our masks. But those who don’t set the country back an unfathomable distance.

If this were just a group project, we would lose a few grade points. But this is a health emergency, and we’re losing lives. 531,000 Americans have died. Five hundred and thirty-one thousand. How many of these deaths could have been prevented?


Adam Burch, 12th grade

America’s epidemic has lasted twelve months not because of the singular contagiousness of Uncle Sam variants but because of the American bargain with wealth. We know by now which interventions work: closing nearly all businesses, massive testing and contact tracing, and paying people to stay home. Democrats and Republicans alike have avoided these measures, because they would hurt the economy. Instead, we’re trying to move faster with immunizations than a virus can through the air.

That that effort seems likely to eventually succeed is amazing, but almost beside the point: The world’s richest government needs a Moon-landing-scale miracle of technoscience because it’s unwilling to pay serious money and interfere with free enterprise.

My own pandemic experience has been about as painless and privileged as possible, and still it’s probably the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. But it’s given me real time to think. For example, here’s Malcolm X on the white elite: “If he’s not ready to clean his house, he shouldn’t have a house. It should catch fire, and burn to the ground.”