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An Inauspicious Anniversary

November 15, 2021 am30 2:05 am

For those of us who mark the passage of time not necessarily in days and weeks and months, but in school years, and vacations, and terms, last Friday was, indeed, a notable date. Notably inauspicious.

Friday was November 12, 2021. Really nothing special about that date for me. Friday morning was a school activity day for us. Friday afternoon were parent teacher conferences.

Three terms ago the Friday activity morning between the evening and the Friday afternoon parent teacher conferences was the last day of school for a long, long time. It was the last day before the mayor and governor finally closed New York City schools.

It was the day before the COVID-19 pandemic closed my school. It may not have been the day that COVID reached us. But it was the day we know that COVID spread within our walls. The activities included a karaoke room. And multiple participants in karaoke, adults and children, got sick.

I thought about this Wednesday, surprised that karaoke was back. I checked – it met DoE regulations, and those of our host campus.

Friday was November 12. That fateful Friday, three terms ago to the day, was March 13, 2020. Friday was three terms, to the day, from the last school day before pandemic closure, an inauspicious anniversary indeed.

At home on Thursday I struggled with what we were doing – the same things we’d always done. Something didn’t feel right. I thought about the anniversary. I thought about loss. I felt my heart race – I couldn’t get my head anywhere else. I guess I got my first first-hand experience with what “triggered” means.

There are many places that have never acknowledged the trauma that came with COVID. There are probably many schools that have not acknowledged what happened. But Thursday, then Friday, and now all weekend, my thoughts were not about the rest of them. My thoughts were about my school, about what a proper acknowledgement might look like.

But how did we get so far into the year without recognizing the loss, the trauma? There are many, students and adults, who just want to get back into a routine. Let’s move forward they think. Getting back to normal quickly is the best therapy. And for some I am sure it is.

But that is not true for everyone. The sense of loss is profoundly different, person by person. We were hit by the pandemic in different ways. Some of us got sick. Most lost people they knew. Some lost people close to them. Some suffered depression, anxiety. In my school, the last day many of us saw Peace Officer Ulises Castro was March 13, 2020.

When a society or a community goes through a great trauma or upheaval, there is a need for reckoning, of remembering, of repairing, before moving forward. I think of Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa, in Chile. Of remembrance, of memory, in many other places in the world. I think of counseling after Littleton, Parkland, Sandy Hook. Earlier this week a student from the Theodore Roosevelt campus was shot after school (he will be fine) – but the other students and teachers were freaked out, and they arranged counseling.

So where is my school in this? Where is the Department of Education? If there was one thing that de Blasio’s team might have got right… yeah, I know.

In my school I will ask. We have pretty thoughtful teachers. Administration listens. Students like being asked. I’m hopeful that good conversation may lead to strong positive suggestions. I will say:

“I do not know exactly what we should do. I know that some will want to continue to plow forward. And that is ok. But as a community we must find a way to collectively look back, to remember, to honor those we have lost, to process the tremendous and terrifying events that we have witnessed.”

But who is asking in our other schools? I am sure that some of them have figured it out (I wish I knew what they have done). But I am guessing that many of them have not. I am guessing that many have not even stopped to consider the need. Plow ahead, just like things were normal….

As a start, maybe, let’s acknowledge that this is necessary work, and that it involves all of us. And let’s remind those in charge that a screener does not take the place of healing.

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