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Column: Somber mood at University of Texas as COVID-19 effects continue

Coronavirus.
Coronavirus. (CDC via AP, File)

AUSTIN – Just less than two weeks ago today, the students of the University of Texas at Austin were attending classes, going to meetings, working and socializing. Campus was filled with freshmen eager to explore this wonderful school and seniors who were inching towards the final steps of receiving their diploma. We had a “normal” life, as one might call it. Two weeks later, a city that has become infamous for its overcrowded streets and highways now seems deserted.

A handful of the students that chose to remain in Austin while the school is closed are either Austin residents or from out-of-state and are unable to travel due to COVID-19 issues. Those are the people I feel the most for. These students are unable to travel home to their families due to the fear of potentially exposing the virus to their relatives. The anxiety surrounding COVID-19 here in Austin has created a vibe around the city like nothing I have ever seen in my four years living here.

I took a walk around the outskirts of campus yesterday evening around dinner time. There weren’t people standing on their balconies talking and having a good time. You couldn’t hear any loud music or the noise of people talking on the way to class. The Whataburger line was shorter than I had ever seen it. Something about this place seemed different, and people around here are unsure when we’re going to have a sense of normalcy again.

Just days ago, our biggest worry was whether our Texas Longhorns would be selected for the NCAA tournament. Today, the only sport we have to look forward to is the start of football season in September which, for all we know, could be postponed or suspended as well. The sense of uncertainty is the most difficult to accept. My senior friends were forced to pack their dorms for the last time, not knowing when they were going to see some of their closest friends again. It was devastating. You look at the news and hear about the student-athletes who will have played their last game as a senior due to this pandemic, but you don’t hear about the students who have built a life and strong bonds with other people over the years. The students who had no idea that last Thursday was the last time they would be walking to class, passing the Tower or sitting in a lecture. Everything changed at the drop of a hat. To the seniors who may never get to enjoy the Forty Acres in the same way again, you will get through this. To the underclassmen, cherish every moment.

I hope that a day comes soon where I can walk down Guadalupe street and hear the sound of horns and sirens, smell the fried food, and see the beautiful place that we call the University of Texas.

Sometimes, you have to see the reality of the bad times to appreciate the good ones. It took a global pandemic to get all of society on the same team. Let us all remember that it’s going to take a united front to beat this thing, so it’s essential that we stick together now and remain that way when this is all over.