To end our school year, students in English 10 read an excerpt from Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. O’Brien’s piece recounts soldiers’ experiences in Vietnam and the many things they carried with them, both literal and figurative. After reading, I gave students the opportunity to write their own reflective piece in the spirit of O’Brien’s, considering what they had been carrying, tangible and intangible, with them over our time in quarantine. On our last day of class, we gathered to share our writing with each other and say our goodbyes for the summer. After Caitlin Daly read this piece in class, we knew the beauty of her words and power of her message deserved publication beyond our classroom.
– Heather Goodrich, Brebeuf Jesuit English Teacher
Please enjoy these powerful words written by Brebeuf Jesuit sophomore Caitlin Daly.
I’ve always loved windows. They have always been symbolic of an escape for me. An escape from stress, anxiety, sadness. A way to leave everything behind and just exist for a few fleeting moments before returning to the real world. In the winter I’ll stand in front of my open window for just a few short seconds, letting the frigid night air wash over me. In the summer my window is open almost every minute of the day; listening to birds chirping and lawnmowers humming during the humid mornings and frogs and mosquitoes at night. During thunderstorms, I lean my head against the screen and let the wind blow raindrops onto my face.
In the last two months, I’ve seen more out of my window than ever before. I’ve watched the flowers and trees bloom. I’ve watched new people who I didn’t even know lived in my neighborhood take walks and go for runs. I’ve seen countless birthday car parades, honking their horns and shouting cheers of love and hope. I’ve seen the kids who live across the street play on their playset, completely oblivious to all of the tragedy our world has seen. I watched as my neighbor taught his five-year-old son how to ride a bike as if none of this even exists. It’s moments like these that give me hope that everything will be ok. That one day we might return to normal and all of this will just become another topic in history class.
I’ve also heard the ambulance blaring its sirens as it arrives to take my dying neighbor, sick with Covid-19, away from his house for the very last time. I watched as movers packed away all of his belongings as his wife fought to stay alive with the very same virus that killed her husband. It’s moments like these where I remember that this isn’t just some distant current event that is only happening in the news, and “it’ll never affect me because I’m young and healthy.” This is real life, and whether it is directly impacting you or not, it isn’t just going to go away. The pain and heartbreak that families have faced will not just be erased by protesters or a vaccine. This time will be a time that we will forever carry with us. Whether you are protected by a window of blissful ignorance or your life is being packed into a moving box; you have been changed. You aren’t the same person you were on March 12th. You have learned not to take small moments, like taking a walk or teaching your son how to ride a bike, for granted ever again. Although this time of pain and suffering may just be reduced to a few short pages in a history textbook one-hundred years from now, we will never forget. Walking down the school hallway with your friends won’t just be another moment in a boring school day. It will be something that you had dreamed about and wished for months. Watching the seasons change through your bedroom window isn’t just something that happens every year, it’s a reminder that you made it; you survived but it’s also a reminder of all those who didn’t. You will forever carry the feeling of your life completely changing overnight, the feeling of longing for the mundane days you took for granted just a few short months ago, the feeling of only being able to see your teachers, classmates, and friends, people you were able to see every day a few months ago, now through just a grainy webcam once a week; you will forever carry the feeling of joy when you wake up to just another average Tuesday.
Written by: Caitlin Daly, Brebeuf Jesuit Sophomore