I was born two days after 9/11, in a country that has been at war for the entire duration of my life. I've grown up in the era of the normalization, not just of mass shootings, but of school shootings, where people my age are being gunned down in their classrooms.
I, like most of my fellow classmates, was raised in a city that has an abundance of homeless people walking the streets. We hung out in wooded areas, where under trees and in the brush we'd find crack pipes. We read news articles about bodies washing up onto the banks of our river, about dozens of unsolved murders.
Every city has things to be worked on, to be improved. But the thing about Spokane is: Spokane loves Spokane, and I do too. Despite its flaws, Spokane is the community that raised me. It's the city where all of our class of 2020 will be ending our high school careers and moving on to make decisions that will determine the rest of our lives.
Not even a month after ringing in the new year, COVID-19 arrived in the United States. In March all 50 states had reported cases — and come March 13, every public school in the state of Washington had been shut down.
For the class of 2020, it crushed our dreams of dancing at movie-worthy prom nights in non-returnable $300 dresses. It brought the realization that we may not even walk in front of our loved ones when we graduate.
Personally, I held onto hope. But as days turned into weeks, and weeks rolled into months, my hope dwindled away. I was lucky enough to be able to attend three different proms throughout high school.
But I cannot help but feel upset that I'll never be able to look back at photos of my senior prom, that I'll never get to hear my family scream and cheer for me as I become the first grandchild to walk across the stage for a high school diploma.
I've spent 72 percent of my life working towards a moment I now will never get. As painful as that is, I'm not throwing a pity party for myself.
Despite the lack of ceremonies, I still did it! I almost dropped out my sophomore year, but I pulled myself together enough to get a full ride to my dream college. No virus can take that away from me, and it can't take it away from anyone else in the class of 2020.
WE DID IT. We did it in an up-and-coming community, one that made this achievement possible for us.
The wasted dress, the canceled prom night, the missing graduation celebration are significant.
But we have bigger fish to fry. People are still dying and local businesses are being forced to shut their doors for good. Lives and livelihoods are being eradicated, and that should be the focus.
Many of us are about ready to leave a community that needs our help and our love.
So I encourage anyone graduating in the class of 2020, to shop local and to look into other ways to help the community that has helped us get to this point — the point in which our roads split off into two, and we face some of the biggest decisions we'll ever make.
We have our whole lives and futures ahead of us. Let's take care of our community, so when this is all over we have one to come back to. ♦