- 1.March 9th at 12:16pm: University announces cancellation of classes for two days, and that Wednesday, March 11th, classes will commence online.
- 2.March 12th: Broadway announces the closing of all Broadway shows until April 13th, 2020.
- 3.March 13th: University announces that classes will remain online for the rest of the Spring semester. University commencement is TBD.
- 4.March 14th: University declares all residential students must leave campus by Friday March 20th.
- 5.March 17th: NYC limits all restaurants to delivery and take-out
I waved goodbye to one of my closest friends in college; I didn't know when I would see her again, so I made sure that I stuck around until she left for the airport. This was the only official goodbye I said to any of my friends; this taught me the lesson again that life could change in an instant. Or in this case, just 3 weeks.
I then walked back into the dorm, then spontaneously decided to have a coffee from Dunkin' Donuts for potentially the last time. I walked down the empty street, made a right on 9th, walked three blocks south onto 57th, made a left, and continued walking until I saw the lit up "Dunkin Donuts 24 hour" sign. But my feet continued walking.
As I walked along the desolate Midtown Manhattan streets at 9pm, I passed by the dark and now-closed stores, which remained lit with my memories. The first I walked past the large Walgreens on 57th and 8th, which was dark, and I saw men loading a large stack of boxes into the store. I sometimes went grocery shopping here, but really only went there for anything that I couldn't find at the Duane Reed or CVS that was close to campus.
One block later, I made a right, and started to walk south on Broadway (the street, not the theatre). I passed by the Staples on 56th, where they sold comparatively cheaper notebooks than the campus bookstore; as some of my friends would say "that's capitalism". As a capitalist, I do agree; why pay $7 for a regular notebook at the campus bookstore if you could find one for $3 5 blocks away?
I chose to walk further south, where I passed by my favorite diner, which the sign said was shut down due to NYC's March 17th mandate. Their coffee was always the best, and their bacon and cheese omelets were pretty bomb.
I walked further south, and passed by the Dollar Pizza place, which for the first time at 9pm on any day had no line. I can't remember the number of times that my friends and I ate there, literally we would struggle to eat the long and thin slices of cheap pizza while standing and eating at the crowded counter that was against the wall. Yes, it was uncomfortable, but hey, name me one other place in NYC where you could get a Costco-sized pizza for $1?
I continued walking further towards Times Square, and became further saddened as I passed by the Pret A Manger, the Penguin Publisher building, the other and more bougie Starbucks, the still expensive and basically rip-off NYC souvenir shops, the building of the Stephen Colbert Show; I stopped when I was across the street from the theatre that was supposed to be hosting the Broadway controversial musical production of "West Side Story".
My feet didn't move forward; I stared at the theatre, as not only was it empty because of the shutdown, but it was the former theatre of one of my favorite musicals "Miss Saigon". My close friend and I met up at 8am on a Saturday morning in February to rush the tickets to the show. Yes it was cold, yes we were tired, yes we had an amazing time at the show, and no, only one of us cried at the end.
It was too much, I couldn't see New York like this on my last night, a place full of diverse memory, all shutdown because of an unprecedented global pandemic.
It was too much, so I made a right turn, to 8th avenue, turning my back away from the bright yet empty Times Square, and walked up north again; I wanted my coffee.
After I got there, and ordered "one medium coffee with 2 cream, 2 sugar". When the cashier gave me the hot coffee, I replied "thanks", and he smiled, and said "have a good night".
That's when I realized that yes, while NYC's shutdown was incredibly sad, it would definitely not last. And that, with the number of COVID-19 cases in China decreasing at a steady rate, everything was going to be fine.
How you may ask? Because it has to be. That was the response to one of my study abroad friends when asked earlier that day "How do you know everything will be ok?".
I walked back to my dorm in better spirits.
Heck, when I took an uber the next day to JFK (airport), I even got some nice glimpses of my campus for potentially the last time.
We are all going to have to isolate ourselves for a little, and yes it will be scary and paranoiac as the number of cases rises globally and in the US, but as long as we try, remain calm, share, and not be like those careless Spring breakers in Florida, we will be fine.
Today, March 19th, 2020, I left New York, my life of the past 4 years, smiling.
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