Much has been said about the unpredictable nature of the COVID-19 pandemic. Maybe too much. You could almost make a drinking game out of the number of newscasts and ads that begin with a grave voice saying, “In these uncertain times…” But as we progress out of our lockdowns and ease social distancing, what fascinates me isn’t what we didn’t see coming, but what we will recount to future generations.
I imagine that when I tell my grandchildren about lockdowns, Zoom meetings, and toilet paper hording, they’ll have trouble believing addled old granddad. To be fair, I didn’t really believe my wife when she told me about the 1990’s Beijing Flu epidemic in Atlanta. Surely, I thought, there couldn’t really have been elementary school classes with only 8 or 10 students in them. Or stores with so few people in the aisles. She must have been too young then to remember correctly. But I did the research and talked with my mother-in-law. It was all true.
How much more incredible will our present situation seem, then, when youngsters rush to Wikipedia and search “2020 COVID-19,” just to make sure gramps hasn’t gone off his meds.
Yet perhaps what are even more surprising and incredible are the true stories of triumph which arose from the uncertainty. For example, teachers had to pivot their entire curriculum to online platforms in what I’ve heard described as an “Apollo 13” scenario. “Okay crew, you’re stranded at home, and all you’ve got is a ball of string, some chewing gum, and a 1994 Jose Canseco baseball card. Time to teach these kids trigonometry.”
Then there are the school administrators and parents of graduating seniors. Instead of planning parties, proms, and pictures, they shifted their focus to just completing the school year with some glimmer of the usual pomp and circumstance. Here in Denton County, though, some ingenuity and a generous corporate partner made graduation especially memorable for the Class of 2020.
Thousands of seniors were able to physically walk the stage yet remain safely distant from one another when the Texas Motor Speedway offered its facility to local school districts. Seniors started the ceremony in spaced out seating on Pit Row, and after picking up their diplomas proceeded to cars parked nearby. Families and friends watched from cars parked in the infield on the world’s biggest LED screen, or from anywhere in the world on a YouTube live stream.
Amazingly, a story of disappointment and “could have been” turned into a unique ceremony those 2020 seniors will never forget. So unique, in fact, that is was featured on the Today show. And, some of the innovations might be useful for future graduations, like live streaming the ceremony for loved ones who can’t attend in person.
Years from now, when we look back on the tragedy of the pandemic, I hope we will also remember the triumph of spirit we are witnessing every day. Often in unexpected ways. From health care workers and first responders to schoolteachers and community partners, heroes have stepped up all around us. Stay safe, Denton, and remember the wonderful things happening around you. Someone will want to hear all about it some day.
For up-to-date information on the City of Denton response to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, and what’s open or closed, please visit this website: https://www.cityofdenton.com/government/health-safety/covid-19-information.