So it all started at the beginning of spring break. I was looking forward to spending these two weeks and a half in New York with my family, when everything fell apart. All of a sudden, reports of deaths and hundreds of unconfirmed cases were flooding the news channels— New York itself was among the most affected. So I changed my plans, and decided to stay with a bunch of other kids at a family friend’s house in Andover, Massachusetts. We were ready to stay there for as long as possible as the situation worsened, but then our parents called.
They freaked out. There’s no other way to describe their reaction. It was understandable, really, when your kids are half the world away in the midst of a raging pandemic and you can’t do anything to keep them safe. But flying back home was another risk we had to consider. We couldn’t afford to fly back only to get infected on a cramped, crowded plane. It wasn’t safe enough. We tried to convince our parents that it was okay, that we had friends with us, and that as long as we were being safe and not going outside, we would be safe.
Then on March 17th, San Francisco went on lockdown. Our parents panicked. Flights were getting cancelled left and right, and there was a chance that we wouldn’t even have a way to go back home to Vietnam anymore. Dad was adamant that we went back right away— catch the next flight out of the U.S. as soon as possible. So we did.
We didn’t pack anything much to lower the chance of the virus getting onto our things. Each of us had one single backpack with three change of clothes, our laptops, chargers, and passports. Our flight was on March 18th, and due to take off at 11am from New York. Our tickets were finalized at 6pm the previous day, there were no flights coming from Boston to New York, so we all got onto a car, drove all night, and made it to JFK at 8am. We were going home.
The flight had a 2-hour layover in Japan. Our parents all got together and drew up this strategy plan we all had to follow on the way back to Hanoi, Vietnam. We had a bunch of clothes, and were expected to change at every single stop, throwing the old outfits straight away. Each of us had one roll of disinfectant wipes to carry, and made sure to wipe everything we touched— literally everything, including the package of peanuts we got on the flight. We were wearing two layers of protective masks, and had large plastic bags to cover our shoes. It was a whole process, but thank god for it, because we made it to the Hanoi airport just fine.
I’ve been back home for over a month now, and I’ve had a lot of time to think about what went down. It all happened so fast back then, and I had so little time to decide anything, so I felt the need to stop and take a breath and think about it all. At first, I was just really annoyed at the whole situation. I missed my spring term, and I probably won’t have a chance to see any of my senior friends again. I was mad at COVID-19 for coming at such an inconvenient time, and for managing to destroy so much within such a short time.
I think that no matter what, everything is going to be different. I don’t know what classes are going to be like next year, or if anyone’s going to be the same after six months, or if the dining hall food will be as good as it was this year. But I also know that because of this pandemic, I’m home with my family, and I’m spending more time with them than I have in the past couple of years. For all of us who haven’t been heavily affected by COVID-19, all we can do is stop blaming everything and focus on what’s happening right now. We need to keep track of the news everyday and make sure to give condolences to those who need it the most. We need to make the most out of this time we have with our family. And then maybe, we’ll be alright.
Written by: Cam Nguyen