On some level, this seems like a perverse exercise: who wants to look back on 2020?
A Pandora’s Box of a trip around the sun that brought plague, recession, unrest, and the quadrennial national screaming match of a presidential election, this is not a year that many of us will remember fondly. If we never hear the word “unprecedented” again, it will be too soon.
Here at UConn, we certainly weren’t spared the effects of 2020’s worst features: most consequentially, UConn Health’s frontline workers endured almost unbearable amounts of stress and grief as they confronted firsthand the terrible effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Long after the blue hearts hung in windows have faded and the 7 p.m. salutes with pots and pans are a memory, their sacrifice and perseverance will remain as a testament to their commitment as medical providers, and to the University whose highest values of public service they embody.
While the pandemic was most inescapable at UConn Health, its consequences certainly weren’t absent elsewhere in the University. On Wednesday, March 11, the decision was made to switch to remote instruction beginning the Monday following Spring Break. Residence halls emptied out, faculty members scrambled to move their courses online mid-semester, and we wondered if it would really be as long as two weeks before things got back to normal. Some people were saying it could be as long as a month – that couldn’t be right, could it?
Two months later, UConn held its first-ever remote Commencement, streamed live from the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts. Ironically, given that only a handful of people were physically present, it was the most-viewed single commencement ceremony in the University’s history, with more than 46,000 people watching from home. By then, of course, we knew things weren’t getting back to normal in two weeks, or a month, or six months. All we could do now was adapt, and wait.
In the summer, classrooms, labs, and residence halls were reconfigured, sanitized, sterilized, and marked with stickers and signs denoting lengths of six feet for proper social distancing. Students arrived for move-in on Aug. 14, a normal enough day in the life of the University, except for the ubiquitous masks, and the requirement to complete a COVID-19 test before getting keys to the room. Summer turned to fall, and by mid-October, despite the predictions of many, it seemed like we were going to pull this off after all – a semester as close to “normal” as possible under the circumstances.
December brought with it hopeful photos of UConn Health workers receiving doses of the first available COVID-19 vaccine, and the knowledge that the spring semester will be a challenge, but now – having gone through this once – at least it would not be “unprecedented” (sorry).
One of the hard lessons of life is that difficulty teaches you who you are. And this is who we were in 2020: a community determined to face up to the worst, and overcome it. And so, as we come to the end of this unforgettable year that many of us would like to forget, let’s look over these images captured by UConn and UConn Health photographers, and remind ourselves: We made it, Huskies. Now let’s climb the next hill together.