Updated: Sep 21
As the Coronavirus came to be, most everything in daily routines ceased to exist.
Families lost members. Seniors lost their season of lasts and their May commencements. Students who studied abroad returned to their homes.
Plans canceled. States locked down. Fear and worry in each headline.
Life as we once knew it, now comes to a grinding halt.
But how did this come about so quickly? Each hour a new, grim report of the death toll. Lives we thought were firm in their foundations suddenly shattered by emails of an extended spring break and then an online semester.
Everyone has been impacted by this change, with each student arranging emergency travel plans to get back to their families or camping out off campus in their apartments.
These are the stories of a few students chronicling the days leading up to Belmont terminating the rest of an in-person semester and how they’ve dealt with the repercussions.
Sophomore Adam Budd imagines sitting in his favorite park reading, basking in another gorgeous Spain day.
Now his reality is living in the basement of his parent’s house in Rockford, Illinois. Spanish sun traded in for Midwest overcast.
The days leading up to Adam’s early departure are both a blur and frozen in time for him.
One Thursday morning at 3 a.m. Adam’s roommate woke him, saying the borders would close soon.
The next day his roommate was packed and gone.
Budd said he “…woke up to an email from my program that said it was cancelled.”
“Saturday everything started closing– everything but grocery stores, pharmacies and hospitals were closed,” he said. “And then Sunday I was on my way home.”
Ironically, the virus he was trying to outrun caught up to him. Adam tested positive for COVID-19.
Luckily, his case was mild. A light cough and a fever that lasted for two days. The doctor asked him to self-quarantine for two weeks.
So Adam sat in his basement. For two weeks. With extremely minimal contact with his parents.
Food-set-down-outside-his-door kind of minimal contact.
Adam has only just been able to begin walking back up to his first floor and greeting his family, all while wearing a mask.
“It’s finally like I’m living normally in my house,” he said.
His personal quarantine may be over but sheltering in place until April 30th is a reality for all of America.
So he, like the rest of us, waits.
Senior Alli Hoffer sits in her off-campus house on Sigler Street watching the days pass.
No final formal for her sorority. No more seeing her favorite professors. Her on-campus senior spring semester has come to an end, her assignments on Blackboard being the only tangible piece left of completing her degree.
It was spring break when Belmont sent out the email of a one week extension and two weeks of online class.
Alli and her roommate Leah were in New York City for their senior year spring break, visiting Belmont alum Christina Read.
Alli remembers thinking all of New York was overreacting because she “hadn’t really heard much about it anywhere else.”
After spending her trip sanitizing constantly and avoiding the subway as much as possible, it still didn’t fully occur to her all of the things that might change for her back home.
“I kind of thought it was something that wouldn’t affect Nashville,” she says. “I thought it was going to be a bigger deal in bigger cities, but that we would be fine for the most part.”
Alli learned quickly things were going to have a direct impact on her and her family when she was told that her grandfather’s health was declining as he rested in his nursing home.
A nursing home that has limited visitors due to COVID-19, meaning she probably won’t get to say goodbye in person.
“We’ve seen it coming but it’s really sad that it’s happening like this,” she said.
Sometimes on her almost daily run, she zips through the deserted Belmont campus.
She catches her breath in front of McWhorter and stares at the sprawling, empty grass of the main lawn.
It taunts her.
Yet she pushes through the isolating tendencies of her sadness and fear to understand that she is not alone.
Collectively, we ache.
So she, like the rest of us, waits.
Abigail Combs is a junior nursing major from Chattanooga. and somehow still manages a busy Nashville schedule from home.
In addition to the rigorous schedule that nursing school and clinicals demand, she also is one of ten student members on the Belmont Orientation Council. This council works to put on the Towering Traditions program freshman and transfers go through when they first arrive at Belmont.
Things have shifted for Abigail, just like everyone else.
Her nursing clinicals are now online.
Questions regarding orientation remain in the air.
Abigail and her friends were in Florida at the beach when they all got the email.
Following a similar pattern of rejoice and then regret, she remembers when things became grim.
“Since Belmont waited a while to decide to close, I knew it was coming,” she said. “I was just waiting for that email.”
That second email, confirming her fears of the remaining semester in-person cancellation, hit her in a much different way than the excitement of the first email.
She first worried for herself and then remembered her senior friends and opened her eyes to each circumstance that has changed because of the virus.
“The entire world has been placed on hold,” she said. “Going through the realization that it’s not just my world, literally everyone else is going through it.”
When thinking specifically about her position on the Orientation Council, Combs notes the struggles that come with being a leader of a student organization during this time.
“As a team we’ve had to put down our expectations for what we expect orientation to look like for us,” she said.
As of today, all of summer orientation has been moved online. This means new students won’t see Belmont until their first week in August. Instead of coming in June to visit, there will be virtual communication, similar to how the virtual Be Belmont Day was handled.
Beyond dealing with her extracurriculars, Abigail highlights the home hardships by noting how the change in environment has changed her routine.
“It’s been so much harder to stay disciplined and motivated to do work,” she said.
The comfort that home once provided now is a root cause of stress for students across the country.
Abigail, along with the rest of Belmont, will continue pushing through this final month of online school, navigating the awkward and upsetting trials of each day.
So she, like the rest of us, waits.
I can remember the gut-twisting feeling of bittersweetness when the first email landed in my inbox.
My three friends and I had been walking downtown Toronto and we ducked into Urban Outfitters to gather our thoughts. I called my mom. As I excitedly detailed how great an extra week of spring break would be, she listened.
She didn’t say much. Only that “this is bigger than any of us realize.”
She was right.
I remember brushing her off in the moment, riding the high of less school. I now would give anything to be back in my classes.
I’m also a member of the Orientation Council, same as Abigail.
The looming uncertainty in how to prepare for an upcoming school year that still has the potential to be cancelled feels like walking on eggshells.
Online school has proven difficult as each professor uses Blackboard differently. The excitement of checking off boxes on my list after turning in assignments has faded, as other tasks have had to take priority.
I sit in my new bedroom. My family moved 78 hours ago out of our home of 15 years.
Only to a subdivision 40 minutes away from where we lived, but suddenly the joy of starting life in a new neighborhood faded and it became a stressful, emergency situation. We had to move or we wouldn’t for months.
Some things in life simply can’t stop due to the Coronavirus, which makes it all the more scarier.
In addition to moving, my parents are in the higher at-risk category because of their age, which is making me worried. My dad can’t be overactive because he has genetic foot and ankle problems. And my mom now has her own medical problems with an unexpected trip to the ER two weeks ago.
In solving one medical issue, she could still contract the Coronavirus. This fear of getting or transmitting the virus makes her question how long she can deal with the pain before going in to her doctor.
And so she waits.
We all wait.
Breath bated and time slowing.
Simply waiting for this to end.
Grief has made a home in places our world never thought it could.
COVID-19 has come into our separate lives and broken down the walls that have separated us, as we are all impacted.
There’s no easy way to end a story like this.
Practice social distancing, read updated news and remain hopeful.
The entire world is connected through hardships at this time.
How quickly the routines of life can become dismantled. And how quickly our priorities shift amidst pandemic.
All we can do is wait.
Article written by Nick Bettuzzi.