Kate Messner wrote a great book called Breakout. I read it to my class this year. In the book, she used the motif of a girl working on a time capsule project for her small town in upstate New York. It was probably going to be a very ordinary time capsule, until something crazy happened. Two inmates broke out from the maximum security correctional center which loomed over her town. It transformed her sleepy mountain town into a teeming center of media and law enforcement activity. It also brought out some unexpected traits in the residents.
Today, I read a tweet from Lauren Tarshis where she noted that kids should recognize that at this moment, they are living through an historic episode. She thought maybe kids could write their own “I Survived” tales.
Putting these two literary references together, I thought maybe the students in my class could write their own time capsule entries. Taking off from Kate Messner’s title, we could call it Outbreak…Or I Survived the Corona Crisis of 2020.
Here’s my first entry:
Dear Future Westport Students,
It’s March 16, 2020, and it certainly is an uncertain time. Our country, well really the whole world, is experiencing a pandemic. Do you still have those in your time, or have you figured out a way to protect yourselves? I’m pretty old, especially in the minds of my students. I’m almost 60, but I’ve never experienced anything like this before.
We started hearing about this in January, but it was way on the other side of the world. It seemed to start in a province in China called Wuhan. The people there were getting sick from a virus that was fairly mild for some, but fatal for others. It spread really quickly throughout the province, partly because some people who had it, didn’t realize they had something different from a cold or the flu. By the time doctors figured out that it was something different, it had spread to a lot of people. They were calling it the Corona virus.
We watched it on the news, but most people didn’t think it would affect us. We’re a long way from Wuhan, China. Most people were wrong. Over the next two months, the virus spread through parts of Asia, then into Europe, and now it’s here, not just in our country, it’s in our town.
Two weeks ago there was a going away party for a man in town. It turns out he had been exposed to the virus. Without knowing, he may have passed it to some of the 40 people at the party. Less than a week later, when our school officials got the word that the man had tested positive, they made the decision to close our school. It happened really fast. The next day, we were all trying to figure out how long we’d be out of school and how we would manage to carry on a virtual school. Do you have virtual schools now? We were also wondering if any of the party families had connections to our class. We were told that we should try to keep to ourselves, avoid crowds, and avoid travel. They’re calling it social distancing. It’s really hard for some people, mostly the people who really like to be social. They want social closeness, not social distance.
Today, the first selectman in our town made a proclamation. I’ve never really heard the first selectman make a proclamation before. The statement said that he was taking steps to keep people from gathering together. He ordered restaurants to be closed, except for takeout or delivery service. He ordered bars closed. I don’t think they have takeout services. He ordered gyms closed. I couldn’t imagine people going to gyms in this contagious time, anyway, but that’s just me apparently. The people in our town really like restaurants and bars and gyms. It’s a social town.
The other thing our town really likes is sports. All the national sports leagues shut down, though, and so did all of the school sports. It’s so strange not having spring training news or not being able to watch March Madness. Is March Madness still a thing in your time? We’re having a different kind of March Madness right now, and it’s not as much fun. All of these sporting events involve people sitting close together in crowded arenas, screaming and hollering and high fiving and even hugging. We can’t have that now.
This time has been a real test of our community. Some people are taking social distancing very seriously. They’re keeping to themselves and avoiding the crowds. Other people have treated it less seriously. Some people think it’s overhyped, like the media is trying to create a story. Other people think the Corona virus won’t hurt them. They say it’s only dangerous for old people and people with compromised immune systems. They aren’t worried.
Personally, I think those people don’t understand. They don’t realize that even if they don’t get very sick, they could pass the virus to someone who might get very sick. I wouldn’t want to do that to someone. Are there still selfish and myopic people in your time? I’m guessing there always will be. Still, I wish we could live up to our 2020 status. This is supposed to be a year of good vision, not myopia. I wish some of those people would come to their senses and take it seriously.
Today’s announcement from the first selectman also had this news. Of the 31 people from our town who were tested for the virus last week, 20 of them have the Corona virus. That’s really scary. I wonder how many people those 20 people have come in contact with. I wonder if I know any of those 20 people. I wonder if I could already have the virus.
It’s a crazy time here in Westport in 2020. A few years ago I read a book called Fever 1793. It was a really amazing story about an epidemic in Philadelphia way back around the birth of our country. I remember reading it and thinking about how brave Mattie had been, taking care of so many victims of this plague. I also remember thinking, I’ve never heard about this outbreak before. I also remember thinking, “Thank God we have better medicine and vaccines now, and we know how to handle something like that.” Now, I think we’re being tested. Do we have better treatment? Have we learned to cooperate and sacrifice? I’m wondering, have you ever heard about the Corona Crisis of 2020? Is it famous or did it fade away? This is one time when I don’t really think any of us want to be famous.