Anonymous, 19

Last year, when I was applying to colleges, I had wanted to go farther away from home. I didn’t get into my first-choice schools and I was mad. Instead, I went to a school in Connecticut, which is less than two hours from my house in Long Island. Now, with all that’s happened since, I am so glad it’s the way it turned out. Actually, I liked the place from the start and my roommate, Steph, from Minnesota, was great. Sometime in November 2019, we planned a trip to Florida for Spring Break.

We did not know so much about the virus in late February, so our parents saw no problem with us going to Fort Lauderdale. Neither one of us had ever been there. We had a great time, went to the beach every day and to the bars in South Beach or Miami at night. And such cute guys from all over! No one talked of any pandemic coming. One old drunk dude on a street corner did scream, “You’re all doomed!” Of course, I didn’t think much of that as a New Yorker. I mean, really?

We got on the plane to LaGuardia and saw a mother and kid wearing masks — weird, we thought. At the airport, no more masks. I think that day was March 8, we got back to college, hadn’t heard or seen any news for a week. By Saint Patrick’s Day, Steph and I, and a few other girls who had been to South Beach with us, had felt nauseous and dizzy. We joked that we must still be hungover from drinking more than we’d ever had in Florida.

For so many days, the TV news was filled with stories and pictures of “crazy spring breakers” crowded onto the Florida beaches. I was more than a little worried when my parents called to say if I did not feel better in a few days, I should come home. Didn’t want to let on how badly I felt.

On March 19, a few of us, Steph included, felt worse and made plans to leave school. Our parents texted every 10 minutes on the ride to JFK Airport, where Steph was catching a plane for St. Paul, Minnesota. Before saying goodbye, I thought maybe we wouldn’t see each other for a long time. There were rumors most colleges were to be closed. When I drove into the driveway of our house about 20 minutes later, I dissolved into tears.

For some two weeks, my parents never asked about my week in Florida. I thankfully had a mild case of coronavirus, although it left me too exhausted to do all my online classes until the second week of April. But then I played catch-up and was able to take exams April 27-30. Well… I made it through freshman year. And just like that, it was over.

A few friends — my relatives wouldn’t dare ask — have wanted to know if I regret going to Florida. No point trying to lay a guilt trip on me! Maybe if we had to do it all over again, some of us might not have gone. But then I’ve thought that many would have eventually gotten COVID-19 anyway. Guess there are reasons, good and bad, why none of us will ever forget Spring Break 2020.

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