Around May, New York was such a hotspot for the coronavirus that almost every single one of my friends from boarding school contacted me to ask if I was okay. At the time, I read a statistic that said 1 in every 3 or 4 New Yorkers would contract the virus, and if not, every single New Yorker will almost certainly know someone who has. It turned out that I would know someone who’d get the coronavirus, but more on that later. In general, that period of time was really hard for me, not only because of the incredible surge in cases in New York, but to add to that, I was just finishing school and there were so many other instances of unrest within the world that arose. That period of my life did not give me the greatest memories, to say the least.
One of those instances of unrest was the death of George Floyd. My mom actually took me to one of the protests going on in New York. It was the first official protest I’ve ever attended, and the energy in the crowd was really powerful. Other than the protest, during quarantine, I’ve gotten to invest a lot of my time into activism. As a POC myself, I have always been interested in advocating for Black lives and other marginalized groups, but once COVID-19 began taking over the world, I think such advocacy has become much more necessary. COVID-19 affects BIPOC disproportionately, and there happens to be a large BIPOC population in New York.
While I personally have not come into direct contact with the virus, my family has definitely been devastated by it, some relatives more heavily than others. I live in a sort of joint apartment with my siblings, cousins, and other relatives. My aunt and uncle lived upstairs together, in very close proximity to us. Somehow, my uncle contracted the virus. Nobody knows exactly what happened. When he was first showing symptoms, our entire family urged him to go to the hospital, but he really didn’t want to. For a while, he kind of sat on it, but then a medical emergency occurred, and he absolutely had to be admitted. After a week or so in the hospital, he had to be put on life support. I remember sitting on my bed, listening to my aunt on the phone with him while he was at the hospital. I remember the visceral fear in her voice. Uncertainty really is the worst feeling ever.
Unfortunately, my uncle ended up passing away from the coronavirus. I never knew him very well. He had driven me to school a couple times, bought me food once in a while, but I never really developed a relationship with him. The impact I felt from his death largely came from watching my aunt grieve. It was a sobering and terrifying experience to watch her experience the pain that she went through, and I never thought I’d see such a drastic change in our busy, crowded household in just one night. Although I had always known COVID-19 was serious, this experience truly opened my eyes to the severity of the coronavirus. The virus was no longer just a statistic or something on the news. Its effects had reached all the way to my apartment in Brooklyn.
Written by: Lily Zeng