Rowan COVID Vigil Memorial

On Tuesday, October 5th at 5pm, a small group gathered in person and on Zoom at Memorial Circle on the Glassboro campus for the Covid-19 Community Vigil. The event—hosted by DEI, Student Affairs, the SGA, the Wellness Center, and the Faculty Center—welcomed students, staff, faculty, and community members to honor our collective loss and perseverance during the ongoing global pandemic.

Student Ian Hipps played a piece by Bach on his violin before Dean of Students Kevin Koett led the community in a moment of silence. One Rowan staff member shared his story of contracting covid, and how he relied on his faith to sustain him while he worried for his wife and children as he recovered in the hospital. A faculty member shared a poem that spoke to the nuance of the moment. We bowed our heads as one as we held our candles and reflected.
COVID Vigil 1
Student Alex Butler, Associate Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the SGA, spoke to his own experience of the pandemic, capturing also the struggle of the student body. Shared with permission, Alex read:
March of 2020 we were sitting in class amongst our peers, friends, professors, and community at Rowan. We were cramming for exams at 11:00pm in the library, attending various organization meetings, racing to class in Science Hall from a previous class in Victoria, and enjoying crab fries at Chickie’s and Pete’s on the weekend, not knowing that the following day, we would be sent for Spring Break to not return for the remainder of the semester. Two weeks of Spring Break turned into multiple weeks, months, and a year of quarantining and mask wearing accompanied by overwhelming feelings of stress, worry, grief, loss, and oblivion, never knowing which way the world was going to flip each day. 
Our lives as students were drastically altered seemingly unexpectedly. Each and every one of us endured varying experiences throughout the pandemic. Many of us had summer internships and jobs lined up, but these were ripped suddenly, leaving us with less and less hope each day that things would return to normal. I intended on traveling to New Mexico for a National Science Foundation Research Experience in astrophysics, but this soon turned into a remote research project. Beyond the loss of academic experiences, we couldn’t see our friends to partake in fun activities, attend the organization meetings that gave us a sense of belonging, or sit by the Engineering pond when we just needed to listen to music following a tough day. Being forced to adapt to a new life brought on by the need to socially distance was not ideal, especially as some faced unsafe home environments, little access to internet resources, and financial insecurities. These extra burdens to carry, while attempting to maintain a considerable GPA through classes held over Zoom, created a widespread issue of mental well-being on top of a widespread global pandemic. 
Coming back to Rowan with an eager and open mind following the roads we all journeyed is triumphant. We have all grown this past year with the opportunity to learn so much about our own strength and capabilities. For some, that self reflection may have come from dealing with loss, pressure at school or work, or even more positively, undertaking a new project they always wanted to do. During the pandemic, I nervously began a new part-time job in my hometown, but during my spare time, I learned how to play the piano. I’m no Mozart, but I think learning “Hot Cross Buns” was a good start. Don’t ask me to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” though, I’m not quite there yet. I also ensured to escape the four walls of my bedroom in between Zoom classes or work shifts through spending time being active outdoors. Some days were harder than others when I questioned my abilities to focus enough to learn Quantum Physics remotely as the anxieties on the state of the world increased. In this instance, maintaining positive outlets was especially important. It was also important for me to learn to let down the guard that confined my shame in reaching out to others when my mental well being was too overwhelming to tackle alone. Whether the world was fighting a pandemic or not, it’s imperative to recognize that mine and your well being is valued. 
Slowly progressing towards returning to campus, all of our struggles and experiences can not be swept away. As we finally sit at Chickie’s and Pete’s for crab fries, or cram for that exam with our peers in the library again, we can’t forget that these friends, these peers, these professors of ours have all traveled down voluminously strenuous roads that they are still are seeking an end to. We also can’t forget to commend ourselves. As I speak here today, as a fourth year student, I recognize that I have spent over a year of my college life in a remote phase, but second year students are only experiencing non-remote learning for the first time this semester. This past year and a half was by far, nothing we could have ever imagined, but I am grateful to be able to speak here today presenting our perseverance through immense uncertainty, grief, and mental strain. We have all encountered our own separate paths through the pandemic, all equally as important, but together, we have exhibited resiliency as a Rowan community.
Covid Vigil 2
The Division of DEI encourages us all to continue to hold space for one another to reflect, process, grieve, and carry on as the challenge of the pandemic continues to evolve. 
Click here to read about the event covered by The Whit Online.