by JESSE SMITHEY
I am so sorry.
Maybe you came to grips with it a month ago. Maybe you held out hope until today — that maybe, just maybe, you may get to finish your senior year.
Your senior season, even.
But now, gone.
Without even a fair shot.
I’m so sorry.
When Gov. Bill Lee recommended Wednesday that schools remained closed through the end of the 2019-2020 school year that all but effectively cancelled the plans you probably had.
Plans for the last day of school. Now, you’ll never know what that feeling is like, going to classes and walking hallways knowing that it’s your last day there as a student.
Plans to graduate in front of friends and family, to hear them scream and cheer from the seats even though they’re supposed to hold their applause until the end.
You know some people can’t hold it inside, because you’ve heard it at other graduations.
But you won’t live that moment.
You won’t stand in a sea of your classmates, all of you replete with the same cap and gown, and throw that hat into the air and then frantically search for it — ultimately just picking up one that you’re certain isn’t yours. But you take it home all the same.
No, Class of 2020.
Your lives will be different because of this. You’ll always have to explain why there’s a gap in your high school experience, this void occupied by an asterisk that will signal to others that you were “one of those kids” who had a pandemic rob you of memories that were supposed to mark a significant part of your life.
I am so sorry.
And for the athletes.
The TSSAA announced Wednesday the cancellation of the suspended Division I basketball tournaments and the Spring Fling state championships.
You sacrificed countless hours of your lives to live out dreams on a field, pitch or court. You sweated through individual instructions with trainers.
You endured preseason conditioning. Oh, the preseason conditioning.
It was the worst, right?
But you did it because you just knew this was your team’s year.
You invested yourself because you loved the game, you played alongside lifelong friends and maybe you even wanted a chance to play it beyond high school.
It’s all been erased now and dusted off like an old chalkboard.
No championship trophies will be handed out by the TSSAA for public school basketball, nor for baseball, softball, soccer, tennis or track & field in 2020.
“Just time to move on now,” said Maryville senior basketball star Joe Anderson, whose team made the 2020 Class AAA state tournament that got suspended in March.
“I’m thankful for all the blessings God gave to me in my high school career and can’t wait to see what the future brings. I’m just hoping I can go to summer school at Furman and coronavirus won’t stop that from happening, as well.”
I’m so sorry.
But sports teach us life lessons, that it isn’t always going to go as planned and you have to learn to be comfortable in the uncomfortable.
Well, this Covid-19 pandemic is as uncomfortable as those heels you planned to wear to prom.
This isn’t easy for any of us.
Most of you are technically adults now. And we, as adults, all shake hands with that welcome-to-the-real-world moment at some point.
Yours just happened quicker than most.
“Only a handful of them will go on to continue playing in college. The rest will call it quits after a season that never was,” Bearden soccer coach Ryan Radcliffe said of his senior players.
“So that’s tough to swallow. For a game that gives us so much joy, it can also give us so much agony.
“And you hope that the lessons they’ve learned and the bond that they have built with each other can help to carry them through a time like this.”
Exactly right, Coach.
How you react, Class of 2020, in the face of adversity will define you.
Embrace the asterisk.
All of you, embrace it.
It’s terrible to live through now.
But in time, you will find a bond through it.
Not just with your graduating class, but also with the fellow freshmen you meet from across the country and world at college.
You’re now linked. Forever.
And as you age, and people learn you were a part of the Class of 2020, they’ll look at you differently, knowing you stand before them having weathered a tremendous storm.
For now, though, you have every right to shed a tear or two. Go ahead and lament what’s lost.
Nobody will fault you.
Not a single one of us.
I think I speak for all non-2020 grads when I say, We’re sorry.
We are so sorry.
“I personally want to tell all the seniors experiencing the heartache that I am experiencing, I am praying for you,” said TKA senior pitcher Kaylan Cole, who signed with Tennessee.
“I know it is tough, but we will celebrate when it’s over. I know we will not be celebrating over a state title or a rivalry win, but we will be celebrating each other’s company. Your diving plays, strikeouts, RBIs, dingers, delay steals, etc… will be remembered as legendary, Class of 2020.”