March 16, 2020
Dear Class of 2020,
You and your classmates were born into a period of historic uncertainty for our country and you will graduate during a time of uncharted territory. If you are a member of The Graduating Class Of 2020, your earthly life began right before or after our country was under attack – 9/11. The year was 2001. Although you don’t remember that day, I have no doubt it has been relayed to you by your parents from their unique perspectives. That moment is etched forever in our parental minds. Your parents’ recollections perhaps involve you. My firstborn son was only four weeks old; a new baby, so innocent and pure – a gift from God and a tangible reminder of miracles, the preciousness of life and all that is good in the world. In my mind, I can still see my son’s perfect baby skin and smell his new baby scent. He had smiled his first genuine smile on 9/10 – the day before the planes hit the World Trade Center. My memory of that day involves him on my lap, an old blue couch and The Today Show. I am still aware of that ominous feeling in the pit of my stomach as Matt Lauer interviewed an eye witness saying she wondered if there was something wrong with air traffic control. The fear written on Lauer’s face told me this was more than an air traffic control error and that it was not good. As parents, I think many of us had an overwhelming and persistent thought that day and in the days that followed, “What kind of world have I brought this child into?” Class Of 2020, you became our HOPE – our reminder of all that is good in a fallen world, our need to rally as a nation, to peer beyond exhausted political divisional walls and to do what was right for your future.
You’ve also lived through a major economic crisis, although you may not even know it. With good intent, we tried our best to shield you from this one. Beginning in the year 2007, our country began what has been described by some as the worst economic time since The Great Depression of the 1930s. You were 6 or 7 years old when this started, but the effects trickled on for years. Many parents and caregivers lost jobs, saw salaries and benefits vanish, took pay cuts and made career moves. It was a stressful time for so many and most certainly a time of uncertainty. Again, Class Of 2020, you were our inspiration. You gave us the drive to get creative, to think outside the box, to persevere, to love and to pray – pray that we would get through this rough patch – and thank God, we did.
When you were all babies, I recall discovering that 2020 would be your graduating year. The year seemed so far away, so futuristic, so Jetsons-like (it’s an old gem of a cartoon -ask your parents about it). 2020! It had a great sound and look – what a cool year to graduate! Now 2020 has arrived, and here is Coronavirus – a word that none of us had ever heard just a few months ago; our first pandemic. Your school is canceled indefinitely, and this is no jubilant extended-snow-day-event. This has a very different feel – for all of us. Your sporting and extracurricular events – on hold. Graduation celebrations may or may not happen. We just don’t know. My generation of helicopter parents has gone from telling you to get off of your devices and socialize as we did in the old days, to urging you to get on your devices due to “social distancing”, a term that is new, unfamiliar and just plain odd to us all. You are probably feeling so many different emotions. That is normal, allowed and OK. As frustration sets in about what you thought would be (and should have been) an exciting time in your young lives, take comfort in common humanity. You are not alone in this. This is not just a challenge for our country. The World’s 2020 Graduates are having to change their realities. All ages, races, genders and socioeconomic levels are impacted in both similar and different ways.
To The Class of 2020, you will redefine what this time means to you. You are strong, resourceful and resilient. You will get creative about how you celebrate this important transitional milestone in your life, and I have no doubt that you will inspire us once again. You came into the world doing so. How you rise together has the very real potential to be better than anything that my generation could ever imagine or plan for you.
Although we can wish this to be different, right now it is not. What is here, is here. We will deal with it together and it will pass. CLASS OF 2020, you have inspired us more than you can understand and we are so very proud of you. We love you – through all that has happened, through what is here now, and will continue to love you as you meet whatever lies ahead. -Heidi Stark, Class of 2020 Mom