March 13th: The Day That Changed Everything

As strange as it seems now, Covid-19 was once little more than just another piece of bad news. Though reports of it’s spread began to mount, few paid it serious attention. This attitude was shared by the Downey Unified School District in the early months of 2020, when the thought of closing schools due to the virus seemed like an absurdity. Of course, such an absurdity became a reality on March 13th when schools officially closed their doors due to what was now being referred to as a pandemic. As the anniversary of that fateful day looms overhead, students share their feelings on one year of lockdown. 


The change in attitudes from flippancy to legitimate worry occurred at a frightening pace. The week of March 13th began much like any other, save for increased coverage of coronavirus. However, as the week progressed, both students and faculty came to the realization that shutting the school down was a distinct possibility as the virus spread further and further. By the time of that Friday, senior Daniela Guadarrama, recalled a quiet dread hanging over the school. 


“March 13 was honestly a very weird day from the start, being that there were rumors about leaving school and such which at the time seemed unlikely to me” Guadarrama said. “I never really anticipated losing all of my senior year.” 


Despite the tense atmosphere of Downey High on that day, many have neglected that memory in the long run in favor of the precise moment the deciding announcement was made. It comes as little surprise, as the instance Mr. Houts came on the intercom was akin to some great release.  As classrooms quieted, senior Isabella Diaz had what may be her last profound memory of high school burned into her brain. 


“I remember the exact moment when Mr. Houts announced we would be leaving school. I was in the back of my APUSH class, mid-lesson, and everyone just went silent” Diaz said “It was shocking to hear, but I still had high hopes that we’d actually come back. In reality, that is probably going to be one of my last memories from Downey High school.” 


Though the impact of the decision to close down school cannot be denied, for many, the proper weight of the situation did not set in for a long while. Quarantine was widely taken to mean some extra weeks off. Celeste Cardona, 11, recalls the lax attitude of a party she attended the very same day as the lockdown announcement. 


“I spent March 13th with a couple of friends since it was my friend’s birthday, everyone had a pretty lax attitude about the whole situation” Cordona said “[we thought] for sure that we’d be back to school in 2 weeks and that it was just an extensive spring break.”  

Such indifference to the situation soon gave way to worried attitudes, as schools remained closed for far longer than the expected two-week period. For those like junior Vanessa Savilla, the enthusiasm that initially met the promise of extra time off eventually acquiesced into a quiet acceptance of just how much Covid-19 would snatch away from students. 


“When I got home I was excited because I wouldn’t have to wake up early and get to school before a certain time. I could just wake up and throw on a sweater and go to class” Savilla said “I honestly really thought we’d only be gone for 2 weeks to a month at max, but after the month was over, I slowly lost more and more hope.” 


To many, the introduction of distance learning and zoom was most indicative of just how many things had changed. Though DUSD has since found ways to regulate online education through schedules and tools like Canvas, the first months using this technology was hectic for both student and teacher alike. While online classes have often been touted as the future of education, students like Daniel Garcia have found the whole process to be far more trouble than it is worth. 


“A change in the way school worked seemed like it would work and it would help our education become more easy. My thought had then changed over time when online classes had started to take place. It was more of a struggle than a relief. It reminded me of how back in middle school, we would write papers on how online classes would improve our future because the internet was so advanced” Garcia said “I then learned that education on the internet was like a double-edged sword. It may be a big help in education but only if you’re truly prepared for it. If you aren’t, it will hit you hard, it will sting.”

Though one year of the current circumstances may seem like a dour note, it is important to keep a hopeful eye to the future. Vaccinations are ramping up and some school districts are already reopening on a limited scale. The impact of this time on our lives cannot be denied, and it is colored by both positive and negative experiences. Elaine Sanchez, 12, speaks to how though this turbulent time supplemented a proper senior year, it did not fail to foster the growth associated with that formative time. 


“I feel that this isolation period made a huge impact on everyone. I’ve seen some people open up themselves and kind of bloomed over quarantine and others kind of deteriorated through the time, becoming comfortable with sadness” Sanchez said “It helped show who was going to be present in your life no matter how difficult it all got and who ended up not being the people you needed. I do think things will get better eventually, I say possibly because everyone passes through their own faults in their own ways on their own time.” 


Students are encouraged to respond to any emails they may receive from the school regarding a return to in person learning.