Graduation was supposed to be a final moment with our full cohort; this year’s reality was different

When I moved into Goodyear Hall in August 2016, I didn’t realize what was ahead at all. I was drawn to this place by the family atmosphere and the strong emphasis from the cadre that “when you’re this far away from home, you have nothing, and when you have nothing, all you have is each other. Lean on each other and learn from one another.”

Over the next three years, that would be the most important mindset to maintain.

On move-in day, the Upper Parade Ground was full of life and optimism, and an energy was in the air that was incomparable to anything I had ever experienced. The new class quickly bonded and became a family, stronger together. When we were on breaks, we longed to be back in the mountains with our family. When something bad happened, we helped one another rebuild. When we lost a classmate suddenly, we stood by one another and grew stronger. Now, at the abrupt “end” of senior year, we are all distraught because of suddenly being torn away from the place that many of us call home away from home.

As seniors, we live knowing that at the end of the year, we may never see some of our classmates and friends again, but it’s a reality we have to accept.

It’s said that disaster brings out the best and worst in people, but it also brings out hope. I was with the Regimental Band at Carnegie Hall for the final performance on Broadway. We saw the lights go out in New York City, as our time there was cut short because of the COVID-19 crisis. I parted ways with the band the morning after our March 12 concert and headed back to what was (little did I know) a new life, and no guarantee that I would be back to the place I called home.

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Angelina Coronado

I wound up in Connecticut, with a fellow student and member of the Class of 2020, and no guarantee that I’ll see my own family before I move, given the stay-at-home orders on Michigan, my home state. Life has moved to video chats, chatrooms, and phone calls as we try to replace human contact. I remain grateful that because of the strong bonds formed by the university’s mindset and values, we really do take care of our own. I’m grateful that there is always a place for someone from Norwich to stay. 

As seniors, we live knowing that at the end of the year, we may never see some of our classmates and friends again, but it’s a reality we have to accept.

Graduation is supposed to be that last moment spent with our entire class to commemorate all of our accomplishments, big and small. Now, we are forced to accept the harsh reality that this virus has robbed us of this rite.

People are entering the military, public service, their chosen career fields and may not be able to come back for the planned ceremony in the fall. I ​hope ​ one day that I will get to see some of my family from Norwich again as we all move forward.

A hasty farewell

Move-out day for me and many classmates was March 17. The air was crisp, yet stale, and a breeze carried the dripping sadness all through campus. It was a very heavy atmosphere. Depressed students packed cars and seniors said their goodbyes to people who were there, whether they were close or not. We all understood that this was necessary, but didn’t want to accept that senior year was just … over.

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The Upper Parade Ground seen in March, when students moved out abruptly because of the safety precautions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Angelina Coronado.)

Distance learning is not the same. It’s harder. It’s forcing yourself to get work done in an environment you’re supposed to be comfortable and relaxed in. In some courses, the workload increased to split other, larger assignments into online pieces. In courses like ROTC, Lead Lab and Mil Lab, where applied leadership is necessary for lieutenants and leaders to apply themselves, distance learning can’t compare to live learning. Unfortunately, it’s not going away anytime soon; this coronavirus is relentless.

There are the distractions of the news, puppies (pets at home), having to maintain chores, and the distraction of a wandering mind, reminding you what you’re missing by not being at Norwich. I was in band, and had the opportunity to perform at so many momentous events. I was in choir, and was looking to perform at the Spring Concert in mid-April. I was involved in the Pegasus Players, and was looking to participate in the spring production in early April. My first performance with Pegasus was in old Dole Auditorium before the revamping of Webb and Dewey halls and the addition of Mack Hall. Many seniors, and even underclassmen, are now in these shoes, grieving the things that we won’t get to do.

I also grieve with the juniors who missed the Junior Ring Ceremony they deserved. The senior class doesn’t get to shake the hands of the class under them to remind them that they earned it. Their cadre don’t get to present them the rings, as that was their last responsibility as a cadre member. College is short, and no, we don’t get this time back. Nobody does.

* * *

I end this account with a poem that has inspired me since I arrived at Norwich. It will continue to inspire me moving forward. 

“What is this place?”

The uninitiated ask, “What is this place?”
And we tell them, “Empty, it is just a building.”

And then we arrive with growing enthusiasm,
Filling the empty halls with anticipation.

We fill the empty rooms with our young optimism,
And something within that building begins to come alive.

But we are individuals each to himself,
And this place offers a moment of solitude.

The things we do together aren’t always homework.
Our interests prove our great Versatility.

We learn what sportsmanship means by playing the game;
And win, lose, or draw, we learn to compete with heart.

And when we leave this place for what the world holds,
We’ll recall that it held our dreams and lived through us.

— Anonymous, 1969

Norwich Forever.

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