Twenty-20 Come Again

by Lana Stern, age 13
Twenty-20 Come Again Lana Stern is a 13-year-old living in New York City. She loves all animals and has a cat named Leo. She goes to The Dalton School and loves participating in wildlife clubs and bake sales. She is a competitive gymnast and is very dedicated to her school and teams. She has been writing creatively since she started writing in the first place and she loves to write futuristic fiction. Lana loves to read realistic fiction and some fiction but not fantasy and she is excited to read and write a lot more in the future.

“I was only 3 when the virus hit so I don’t remember much from before everything changed. I don’t remember the virus too well either. The human brain doesn’t start making memories until you’re almost four so I only remembered a few moments from the end. When the vaccine was accessible to most average people all over the world, I remember sitting on the cloud with my family watching the window monitor. The people were dancing and cheering outside embracing their long-awaited freedom. They celebrated all night in the streets, rejoicing over the thought of being free. They thought it was over. They thought that was the end.”

It was 15 years ago when the coronavirus pandemic hit the world. It is now 2035 and the world has almost healed. Most people have returned to work like my mom. I am now almost 18. The vaccine was finally crafted on January 17th, 2021. While it wasn’t available to the general public until February 8th, the world began to return to what my mom says was “normal.” I was only 3 when the virus hit so I don’t remember much from before everything changed. I  don’t remember the virus too well either. The human brain doesn’t start making memories until you’re almost four so I only remembered a few moments from the end. When the vaccine was accessible to most average people all over the world, I remember sitting on the cloud with my family watching the window monitor. The people were dancing and cheering outside embracing their long-awaited freedom. They celebrated all night in the streets, rejoicing over the thought of being free. They thought it was over. They thought that was the end.

I sometimes think of the person who began this tragedy. Did they know they would change the world forever? I often think of people who do things without thinking. I was never like that. I like to think of myself as a person of few actions but many thoughts; always wondering how what I do affects the world around me. Sometimes it’s a blessing and sometimes a curse. 

I find myself stopping my life to think of others. I once was walking across the street which at the time was made of glass of course, and there was a person on their wireless monitor. I saw a car ahead of me skidding on the glass, which is why we now switched to a form of metal. I thought to myself, seamlessly without thinking, of the person ahead that could be killed by the car. I didn’t notice though that the person had already made it safely to the other side. I, on the other hand, was standing directly in the path of the car. I stopped thinking completely as I watched the car get closer and closer. All I could think of was the person walking away wherever they had to go. My brain froze. I stopped. Everything slowed. My sight blurred. Not moving anything. Just standing on the clear glass looking ahead but not at anything. The car progressed until I forced myself away to the side of the road. The car gained control and slowed to a stop about 20 feet ahead of me. The driver was my first thought and I forgot about my near-death experience. 

This was only one example of how my constant thoughts of others and my actions affected my life and almost ended it. Although this instance definitely doesn’t show the blessings of this trait, there are many instances where having constant thoughts is helpful. I won’t go into that right now though. 

From the Corona pandemic, I have memories of being with my mom and dad a lot. These didn’t really mean anything much to me since I loved everything about it. I got to spend all day long annoying my parents and it seemed like there was an excuse for it. They sat on the cloud or at the smart table working all day long or watching the window monitor play the news feed of the pandemic. I remember, even for my young small brain, how exhausting it was to hear about everything going on in the world and not understand why. I never understood how someone started something like this, something that would change the world entirely, and not even care. I can’t even imagine being the person who started the coronavirus. Someone who didn’t think. That was the opposite of everything that I am. This person changed everything. 

I sometimes wonder what my life would be like if that one person made a right turn instead of a left. Or their child got sick and had to be picked up from school. Would the world ever be the same? 

I like to think that the pandemic had a positive effect on the world as well. Whether it did or didn’t, it helps me keep faith in our species and move forward even when I want to stop. I try to think to myself that my dad just stopped. He didn’t give in. He wasn’t taken. He just stopped. He knew what was best because he was a very smart man. I trusted him and his decision any day and I always will. He battled and pushed for over a month and then after we said goodbye, he stopped. They let us say goodbye but they warned us that we could get it too. I think it was one of the best decisions we had ever made. Without it, we would have never seen him go. We had the antibodies which scientists had researched more. They found that the antibodies meant more than most people thought.

When dad stopped, mom had a period of slowed everything. She moved slower, she worked slower, she ate slower. This was worrying for me because losing both of them wasn’t an option. She promised me that everything would be okay and I believed her. This was another good decision by me, but it took me some time to realize it. As always, she was right and we overcame his death together. I, as an only child, took this really hard. This was the loss of the only male figure in my family. Both my grandpas died before I was born and my mom had no siblings. My dad had one sister and she had a baby girl. She never remarried after she divorced her second husband and she was happy the way life was. Her daughter, my cousin, who was 7, was like a sister to me. When we had to quarantine, we did it together. This made everything much easier. We had dance parties every night and sang at the tops of our lungs. Then when dad died these routines shifted. Everyone was just slightly more calm and mournful. Again, I was 3, so it isn’t as clear to me as it could have been but I definitely remember. 

My mom previously worked as an essential worker but she quit once corona began. She was too worried about dad since he had an existing condition. She didn’t want to be the reason that he got sick. Unfortunately, she was too late. Dad had already gotten sick before she quit. We think he got sick from his work since his office stayed open longer than others. After he got sick, he quarantined himself for about 1 week and then went to the hospital. He was there for 3 more weeks before he stopped. 

I still remember the last time I saw him. So weak and pale. Barely moving. Even though it was so long ago, I still remember the strong smell of the hospital room and the beeping of machines around me. The heavy feeling of my steps as I walked out of there, knowing I would never see him again. The warm touch of my mom’s arm around my shoulders as she wept quietly. I could feel it when he stopped. We were home sitting on the cloud which was called a couch back then but I just knew. I felt it inside, like a piece of me just stopped. 

After he passed and mom started a new job working in an office, things started to feel slightly more normal. Although nothing was exactly the same, it began to return to what life was like before. It was really hard for us to go back to normal without dad though. I kept thinking I saw him or thought I heard him. When I would come home from school I would walk through the door thinking of the things I wanted to tell him. I then reminded myself that I couldn’t think like that. 

One day mom and I were sitting on the couch watching the window monitor and the news came on. It showed footage of a police officer kneeling on a man’s neck. They later showed that the man had said “I can’t breathe” but the officer didn’t care. After that, he was pronounced dead and so many people were extremely angry. There were protests all over the country. Some were peaceful and some were not. Burning buildings, robbing stores, trashing police cars. All over the news was people fighting for their rights and the rights of others. I thought to myself every once in a while when I would see these violent acts, what is this doing for our community? This isn’t showing a strong and powerful side. This is going against all the peaceful protests that will change the world and this is getting more and more people arrested. It was infuriating to watch all these innocent people be pushed down by the people who should keep us safe. I tried to think that they were just doing their job but it was so hard when there was so much hate. Between the tear gas and violent officers pushing peaceful protesters around, I couldn’t believe this was the world we had put so much trust into. I couldn’t believe this was the reality of our country and what we did just for our jobs. It was hard to watch just sitting on the couch observing the cruelty around me. 

Whenever we walked outside to go to the store or just to take a walk, all the stores were boarded up with cardboard planks to prevent robberies. I saw one day a store near our house that had been smashed open. Most of the products inside were taken. The glass smashed to bits. Then I saw the people come to replace the planks. That’s what reset my view of our country. Not the smashed glass and stolen objects but the people who came to fix it. Maybe it was just because they were told to but because they came to do it. We were in the middle of a deathly pandemic and these people came to fix the panel on a store. It’s astonishing to me the different types of people in this world. The people who would break the windows and the people who would fix them. This brings me back to myself and the person I am – how I’m sometimes too aware of how my actions affect others. I think back to the person who started the coronavirus and then I think about the people who were protesting for their rights, and the people that were helping others keep their stores safe, and the essential workers who were saving lives. They were thinking like I do every day and were saving our world. I found that really amazing. 

After both violent and peaceful protests, police training was much more selective. They added new tests and questioning to prevent this same tragedy again which helped greatly. There were also new laws forcing police officers to complete this training and current police officers had to be tested again. They made all officers be tested every 5 years like a driver’s license to make sure they still followed all the rules. In the beginning of these new rules, there was an increase in crime since the police spent a lot of their time completing the tests and less time doing their job. Eventually, this evened out and things went back to normal with the police doing what they should do. These laws enforced police officers to not make racist decisions or comments and if they did they would be arrested. Nothing like the George Floyd disaster had happened since and everyone was much happier and felt much safer. 

By 2030 almost everything was back to normal. All restaurants were open and the economy had returned. On public transportation, some people still wore masks and gloves but most people didn’t. People most at risk just stayed inside and their work and food delivery services were adjusted. There were some new laws that helped older people or people at risk stay safe and healthy. Herd immunity took place so most people in small communities had the antibodies. This helped greatly by preventing more cases from spreading. 

Almost everyone had had the antibody test which had become more and more advanced since the outbreak. They were very reliable and scientists had found that you couldn’t get the virus again. The vaccine obviously also helped with this as it was crafted pretty early on. Almost everyone across the world had access to it and got it as soon as possible. There had been some questioning of how reliable it is, but I believed it worked well. Scientists were still working to advance the vaccine more and more so it was even more reliable. 

**

At school, more and more people were telling me that their family members were getting sick. My friend Ella was one of the first people to tell me that her dad got sick and was staying at home. Then my friend Nick, whose mom was sick and staying home. This worried me because what if some other virus was taking over the world again. This was the last thing I need because I can’t lose anyone else important to me. I didn’t tell anyone about this until almost half my class was not there due to some sickness. While my teachers thought this was just the flu since it is flu season, I thought it was something more. I don’t know why but I can just feel it. Something is not right. Not at all. 

I will speak to mom when I get home tonight and I will tell her because now I am getting nervous. The symptoms seem somehow familiar from what I have heard. I did some research after school and looked at all the news broadcasting websites and stations I could find. They said nothing about any new virus which made me feel slightly better. I decided to wait to tell mom because I could tell how stressed she was. She has been working so hard at her new job and I know she is tired. I don’t want to worry her any more than she already is.

She talked to me after dinner today and surprisingly she brought up the sickness that I had been talking about. She said that a lot of people at her work were out sick and she asked me if I had heard anything about it. I was shocked that she had heard about it too. This meant that it was more than just the flu. I went to bed thinking about what this could be. What would happen if this was another pandemic that would ruin our lives all over again? 

It started to come up on the news a few days later and that worried me all over again. I heard that once again it started in Wuhan just like the coronavirus and it is spreading all over Asia once again. Just then as I was watching the news, my eyes blurred. My brain felt like it was spinning in my head. I suddenly thought back to when corona was spreading. I remembered sitting on the couch watching the news. I felt the pain again of seeing so many people die and I remembered the helpless thoughts that I felt so long ago. 

This new virus that was spreading around the world had very similar symptoms to the coronavirus so scientists were working really hard to determine what it was. My school was closed and they forced us inside with curfews and masks wherever we went. They are not exactly sure how this new virus spreads and they don’t know how to control the cases. Unlike corona, this outbreak happened all at once all over the world. It’s like something caused it everywhere all at the same time. This was much worse than corona because there was no way to flatten the curve. Everyone just got sick all at once. I heard on the news of one woman who was in the hospital for 2 weeks before going back home. I also heard of a man in Hong Kong who was in the hospital for 4 weeks before dying but the doctors still don’t know from what. 

It’s now a few weeks later and more and more people are getting sick and the deaths are going up rapidly. Scientists now think this is some form or part of the original coronavirus because the symptoms are really similar. Shortness of breath, exhaustion, cough, etc. This scares me more than anything because knowing that my dad died from this gives it an extra frightening spin. Mom was back working from home and I have been doing robotic school since the first few cases. The reason my school closed so proactively is because so many people were getting sick in school and they had such a fear of it spreading. Since in the beginning, they thought it was just the flu, they were really worried about it already spreading to the grandparents and parents of these kids. Whatever this virus is also strongly affects older people and people with weakened immune systems like corona. I sign onto my robot every day now and I control the robot as it walks to school and sits down at my desk. Then I have headphones and I listen to all my classes which are taught by my teachers also through robots. When corona happened and we all had to be quarantined for almost a year; they hadn’t come up with this technology yet. We had to go on a computer and sign in to a website called zoom. Then we would listen to our classes which our teachers taught through the screen. This has been so much better because I feel like I have a normal routine. I still have to wake up at the same time and it takes the same amount of time for me to get to school as if I was walking. The scientists have also figured out how to make this technology so it doesn’t feel like we are on screen all day. It feels like we are sitting in a normal class. It is really amazing.

Since our new form of school, I have been having the same flashbacks as when we first heard about this new virus. They are becoming more and more frequent. Some are repeated and some new ones every day. They vary from just getting a little dizzy and then having a strange memory and some are violent spinning and my brain is completely transported to a different world. One that I have had many times is whenever I put a mask on I remember the first time I ever had to. I remember my mom forcing it on my face because we had to go into the store. It was right after dad died so we were all really frustrated and I wouldn’t have it. She kept holding on my face and wrapping it around my head. I knew she wasn’t trying to hurt me but I felt it inside. I felt the tightness of the elastic around my head and the pain of the compression on my ears. Every time I put a mask on now I feel that all over again. 

The newest data about this new virus or part of the old virus is that it has something to do with the vaccine that they thought worked so well. They think the vaccine wasn’t tested for the proper length of time before it was given to the public. They didn’t have the time to test if it worked for extended periods of time. They are finding that the people who have already had the virus are much safer than the people who have gotten the vaccine. The antibodies for this virus are seeming to be much stronger than the vaccine they have crafted. This is why herd immunity is extremely important if the world is going to heal. The authorities are encouraging people to go outside and return to normal life unless they are at risk or are sick. They say this is the only way for the world to return to normal.

I really hope my mom goes back to work and starts to go back into a normal routine. She has been so stressed and she needs that sense of knowing what will happen next. It is taking a toll on all of us. Not having a steady routine to wake up to and not knowing what will come next. Living each day to the fullest and trying not to think about tomorrow or the next day to come. We are trying really hard, Mom, Hazel, Ashley, and I. We have been spending more time together and we help each other with the loss of dad still to this day. It means a lot to mom and me to have them there and I think it means a lot to them too. 

We have been trying to spend all the time together that we can and we try to enjoy the moments we have together. We have dinner together every Friday night and we talk about our lives during the past week. I especially have been trying to not take for granted my school experience even though it isn’t ideal. It has been really hard recently with the new adjustments but I try to understand that everyone is trying their very best. Oh, it’s also my birthday today, December 31st. The date Corona started but just 3 years earlier. The day that one person made a choice that changed the world forever. More tomorrow.

Sincerely,

Amber

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