Photo Courtesy of Ellen Gerst / Gavel Media

The Day Of

5:11 P.M.

Fuel America was still open on March 11, the day Governor Charlie Baker declared Massachusetts in a state of emergency. The employees wore gloves, and all drinks were served in to-go cups. And, as always, it was packed. 

My friends grabbed a couple of seats at the end of a table while I set up at the window, next to one of the cafe’s coveted outlets. We’d decided to work here, trying to distract ourselves from the rumors flying around campus about whether we’d be sent home from school or not. Earlier in the day, without knowing it, we had attended our last physical classes at Boston College. 

Some said the email was coming at 6 p.m., some said 5. I tried not to look at the time too often, but I couldn’t help it. Between my iced latte and the threat of having to leave college forever, my leg couldn’t stop bouncing. 

A few minutes after 5, my friend Andy tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around and squinted to read the email she was holding up on her phone. 

“They’re making us go home.”

Closer to the five o’clock deadline, rumors about the school closing started to feel more like warnings. 

“A BC cop stopped me on the street on my way back from the liquor store and told me they were sending us home,” Kristina Zamrowski, MCAS ‘20, said. “But I didn’t believe it was real until I got the email.”

The first thing she did was crack a White Claw and head over to her friends’ Mod, where she found them already crying and drinking.

“I knew the announcement had come when I heard someone outside in the Mods yell, ‘Fuck it, we’re drinking outside—what are they gonna do, expel us?’” she laughs. “It was just this feeling of group collapse.” 

“I just remember FaceTiming my roommates immediately,” Shea Rulon, CSOM ‘20, said, “and telling them to come home, that it was time to start drinking.”

Rulon and a few friends headed to Wegmans right away to stock up on alcohol. 

Krista Roze, MCAS ‘20, was walking back from her on-campus job when she saw a student crying openly on Gasson Quad. 

“She wasn’t trying to hide it at all,” Roze said. “Something about that made me think, okay, I have to check my email right now.” 

The reality of the email, typed in sterile Times New Roman, shattered the feeling of perverted excitement on campus leading up to the announcement. 

“My roommate Tim came in and said, ‘Zach, man, it’s over,’” said Zach Erickson, MCAS ‘20. “I was actually really excited for something to happen, but then when I got the email I got really gloomy.”

Erickson and his roommates sat in disbelief for a while before putting on Jimmy Buffett’s “It’s Been a Lovely Cruise.” 

“It sounds cliche, but it was so surreal,” Roze said. “Like a bad dream, or a joke, or a mistake. I just didn’t believe it was real, somehow.”

5:18 P.M.

We packed up our notebooks and laptops as soon as we’d each read the email through at least three times. As we headed out the door, Andy and Joan broke the emotionless sense of disbelief and started to cry. I knew I should cry, too, but for some reason, I didn’t even feel my lip wobble. 

“Let’s go this way,” Joan said, pointing down Chiswick Road. “I need to buy champagne.” 

We made our way towards Huntington Market, where Joan grabbed a bottle of Veuve from the top shelf. I bought a $12 bottle of prosecco. 

As we clanged out of Huntington, I pulled up the Rider app on my phone for one of the last times in my life. 

“There’s a Comm Ave. bus coming in four minutes.”

“My immediate first thought was that I can’t go home,” Rulon said. “It was just not an option.”

With the news that all students, besides a very few exceptions, must move out of on-campus housing by Sunday, March 15, students and their families scrambled to figure out logistics. In the midst of the chaos unraveling across campus, Rulon’s first worry was finding housing. 

“I was scouring the Facebook group for sublets, trying to get a group together,” she said.

Mitch Morrison, CSOM ‘20, also knew he didn’t want to go home—and he didn’t even want to think about getting everything he owns back to his hometown of Kansas City in just four days. 

“I didn’t call my parents, there was no time to have a discussion,” Morrison said. “But I had to figure out what I was doing on that Sunday.”

“My initial reaction was, I can’t be alone right now,” Roze said. After finding her apartment empty, she headed to Lower to meet up with friends from her sketch comedy group Hello… Shovelhead! 

“I should have been worrying about packing or moving,” Zamrowski said. “But I was just worried about seeing the people I cared about and saying goodbye. Whenever I was with one group of friends, I felt like I was missing time with another.”

By the time she called her parents, Zamrowski thought she had cried all her tears. 

“But hearing my mom’s voice, I started crying again. It suddenly felt real that I had to go home.”

“I just wasn’t sure if I was emotionally ready to leave my friends, leave campus, and go back to living with my family,” Morrison said. “We were walking between different Mods, just saying ‘Can you believe this? This is crazy!’ over and over again for like five hours.”

5:23 P.M.

We squeezed onto the bus, already full on its way back to campus. 

“What are we going to do?”

“I don’t even know.” 

“I have to call my mom.”

We alternated between frantically texting everyone we could think of and exchanging unproductive expressions of disbelief. Two girls in front of us discussed how they were going to move out of Vandy in four days. I wished I was in their shoes so badly. 

“Are you guys seniors?” One of them turned around to ask. 

Andy laughed and nodded through tears. 

“I’m so sorry, this must suck for you guys,” she said. Her tone was genuine, but I couldn’t agree with her out loud; to say it sucked would mean it was real, and I still hadn’t cried yet. I didn’t want to start on the Comm Ave. bus. 

We pulled up to Robsham, stumbling out onto a campus full of 9,000 mourning students. People outside Lower sobbed with friends and hugged anyone who stopped by. No one thought of homework, theses, or getting up for class tomorrow—they didn’t exist anymore.

Andy and I said goodbye to Joan, who headed for her Mod with tears on her cheeks and Veuve in her arms. We turned to face the hill and climb up to Ignacio Hall. 

“It seemed so drastic at the time, an overreaction,” Rulon said. “I wasn’t afraid of the coronavirus at all. But now it’s like, oh, obviously we had to close.”

“The virus itself—it’s not a joke, it’s obviously a serious disease,” Morrison said. “But I thought it would be better to wait and see.”

Seniors, robbed of their last two months of college, had little thought of the real-life implications of the virus. Without widespread social distancing measures in place, they spent their final days at BC in big groups, crowded Mods, and tight hugs. 

“I didn’t think of it as a real virus until everyone moved out, and it sunk in that it was an actual pandemic,” Roze said. “It didn’t just affect our college experience, it was affecting everyone in the world.”

Erickson said he wasn’t worried about the pandemic yet, since the numbers were relatively low in the United States in early March. 

“I thought it was silly they were closing school,” Erickson said. “I thought maybe we could come back after a few weeks. But looking back on it… that wasn’t going to happen.”

The last few days of the physical semester kept students inside the BC bubble more than usual, with no time to waste reading the news or keeping tabs on the virus’ spread. 

“The pandemic was obviously bad, but it didn’t seem as bad then as we now know it is,” Zamrowski said. “I was mostly thinking about all the things I wouldn’t get to do—Marathon Monday, Mudstock… even sitting in the quad on a nice day with my peach black tea from the Chocolate Bar. We don’t get to do that this year.”

5:35 P.M.

After a silent elevator ride, we came home to an empty apartment. Our fridge was full of groceries I had bought days before. I now worried about finishing them by the end of the weekend. 

I shut myself in my room to call my parents, my bottom lip finally wobbling as the phone rang. As soon as I heard my mom’s voice, I started to sob. 

Forty minutes later, I’d told my parents what was going on and that I planned to move off-campus instead of coming home. I rejoined my roommates, slowly returning home in varying levels of distress, in the common room. I kept running through a mental list of things my friends promised each other we’d do before graduation while searching Facebook for apartments to sublet. 

Eventually, as the sun started to set and our friends started to call us, telling us to come to the Mods, I closed my laptop. We milled around our apartment, still in a bit of a stupor, finding jackets to throw on. We grabbed whatever loose beers and seltzers we could find, turned out the lights, and headed down to the Mods.

This article was originally released in May, 2020, as part of our special print edition, “Five Days,” one, final, tribute to the seniors of the Class of 2020.  If you would like to view the magazine in its entirety, you can find the entire digital edition published here

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Ellen Gerst