The MFS COVID-19 Archives Project

In July 2020, Head of School Julia de la Torre announced the MFS COVID-19 Archives Project. Community members were invited to share their thoughts and feelings about the times we are living through using whatever media they chose. In her message encouraging community members to contribute, she cited educator John Dewey’s statement: “We don’t learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.” This archive will become a part of the School’s history.
 
The following submissions received so far – short essays, poems, art, photography, and more – from a kaleidoscope of perspectives, from Lower, Middle and Upper School students, parents, teachers, and alums spanning six decades. They tell stories of great challenge, tremendous resilience, and hope. In its 235 years of history, members of the Moorestown Friends community have lived through many trying times, from wars, depressions, civil strife – and even the pandemic 100 years ago. Capturing voices from today, for tomorrow, is a message of hope for generations to come. It’s not too late.
 
If you are interested in making a submission, just click here if you are 12 or younger or click here if you are 13 and older.
Anjali '26

What would you want students at MFS in the future to know about what this time has meant to you? What advice would you give them?

Many years from now, I believe people will study the year 2020 in history class. Whenever I Iearn about history, I always wonder how the people experiencing it felt. During this time of the pandemic, I don’t feel just one specific emotion. Everything happened so quickly; one day I was learning in a classroom, the next, I was in my room learning how to use the green screen on Zoom. We have all had to get used to a new norm quickly, which was difficult, but it was the only option. Something that I find fascinating, is that I am living in a time that will go into the history books. So, my advice, if something big and different were to happen again, is to stay positive and remember that complaining about the things we can not change will only make it tougher.

How did you feel about remote learning? What was the best part about learning from home? What was the worst part?

Remote Learning was one of my least favorite parts of the pandemic. Learning in-person and being able to sit in a classroom is what my norm used to be. It was very hard to transition from in-person learning to remote learning. Aside from that, I was impressed with how quickly we transitioned to this form of learning and how connected our MFS community stayed during such unprecedented times!

What did you miss the most when you were living under stay-at-home orders?

I remember the day we started quarantine, March 13th. For a few weeks after that, we didn’t have any school and I was very bored. One reason I love school is that it is the time where I see all my friends and talk to my teachers (in addition to learning a lot). I missed in-person school because I always had so much fun learning in the classroom, but online I was just learning without the fun parts.

What are the ways that you have found joy in the past few months?

A few ways I have found joy during the past few months was by staying in contact with my friends as much as possible and having enough time for myself. Both of these are very important for your mental health, especially now. Occasionally, a few of my friends would facetime together and catch up. Every few days I would get at least an hour of time to myself by exercising, drawing, reading, or relaxing.

Chloe '26

What are the ways that you have found joy in the past few months?

Painting

Emmie '27

What would you want students at MFS in the future to know about what this time has meant to you? What advice would you give them?

Being quarantined at home has been a challenge. But, at the same time, it has been a good experience for me. I was able to connect to my teachers in ways I have never imagined, and succeed in my academics, while learning virtually. The dedication my teachers put into their work for me and my classmates to thrive in our new “school” is amazing, and words can’t explain how grateful I am for them! Although it has been quite hard for me not to see my teachers and friends, get used to the mysterious ways of the online world, and miss out on many fun activities that would have happened if the pandemic didn’t occur, if this pandemic didn’t happen, many other wonderful things wouldn’t have happen. For example, I wouldn’t be able to bond with my classmates and teachers in unique ways or discover cool online websites! So, overall, this was a nice challenge for me. Because, without this pandemic, I would’ve never gotten to have this amazing learning experience. So, my advice to you is to make the best out of every experience life throws at you. Although it might seem as if life is going to end, and that there is no good in what is happening, look around one more time. Try to find the good and happiness. And, even after looking, you can’t find any good, make your own happiness. This could be as simple as doing something you love, to creating something to change the world. Remember that you have people surrounding you that love you and are there for you if you need them! I believe in you! <3

How did you feel about remote learning? What was the best part about learning from home? What was the worst part?

At first I was really curious about it, and didn’t know how it was going to work. I had no idea how I was still going to be able to learn, and do my work. But, after my amazing teachers helped me understand it, I got used to learning virtually! The best part is being able to be at home for me. The worst part is not being able to see my friends and teachers 🙁

What did you miss the most when you were living under stay-at-home orders?

I really miss all of the basic things! Just being to go outside without a worry about wearing a mask, and getting a virus. I also miss going to school, packing my backpack, not having to look at a screen for a long time, hugging my friends and teachers, and sitting next to my friends while eating lunch. I also miss sitting at a desk listening to my teachers teach me from the smart board, instead of sitting in my home office just looking at my teachers through a screen, and not in person. I pretty much miss life before quarantine, but also have learned to love my “new life”.

What are ways that you have found joy in the past few months?

I have really enjoyed playing online games with my friends, texting and face timing my friends, coding, sleeping longer, and finding fun ways to connect with others!

Matthew '27

What would you want students at MFS in the future to know about what this time has meant to you? What advice would you give them?

This has been a time for teamwork because the MFS community has to work together creatively to come up with different ways that help everybody and make this time as normal as possible. My advice would be a good way to get through times like this is to always try to help each other out by sharing creative ideas to support everybody.

How did you feel about remote learning? What was the best part about learning from home? What was the worst part?

The best part was seeing friends and family at the same time. The worst part was not being able to spend as much time with my friends.

What are the greatest challenges you have faced during the pandemic?

Keeping track of online learning

What did you miss the most when you were living under stay-at-home orders?

Not being able to socially interact in person with my friends.

What are ways that you have found joy in the past few months?

I enjoyed being able to get a small pool for my back yard and bike ride with friends at a distance. It was nice to have time to bike new places.

Are there other observations about this time that you’d like to share for the Archival collection?

I would say that you should always listen to what your parents tell you to do in this time, even if it means you can’t do as much as you used to. It will be worse in the long run if you don’t because more people will get sick if they don’t follow the rules. The less sick people there are, the faster the virus will get better.

Jonah '28

What would you want students at MFS in the future to know about what this time has meant to you? What advice would you give them?

It was nice to slow down from sports and activities.

How did you feel about remote learning? What was the best part about learning from home? What was the worst part?

I loved it! I was finished in under 2 hours and had my day free! My mom hated it!

What are the greatest challenges you have faced during the pandemic?

My brother has autism and is a residential student at Bancroft. I haven’t seen him since March. The governor will not let me see him. It is August, and it looks like I will not see him for a long time.

What did you miss the most when you were living under stay-at-home orders?

Seeing other kids. Playing ball on the playground.

What are ways that you have found joy in the past few months?

My dad decided to have Hitchcock movie nights. I love Jimmy Stewart! We watched 14 movies!

My mom taught art history. This was ok.

I biked, a lot. My older sister took me on the tandem bike.

We spent a lot of time with our neighbors. The dad taught us to use lint to light a fire.

The best thing was that my dad decided to work in Alaska. We were so busy with baseball and camps in NJ that we could have never have gone, We went glamping and hiked on a glacier! I saw moose, bears and caribou! I know what to do if I see a moose or a black bear! We hiked up a mountain on a moose path and picked wild blueberries! This was awesome!

I participated in the Philadelphia Boys Choir online. This was a change.

Are there other observations about this time that you’d like to share for the Archival collection?

The last week of school was not joyful. It should have been, but the virus and the unrest made it sad.

 

Maya '28

What would you want students at MFS in the future to know about what this time has meant to you? What advice would you give them?

It was a time that I could work on quiet projects. You should enjoy the time with your parents, you will see them a lot.

How did you feel about remote learning? What was the best part about learning from home? What was the worst part?

The best part was working at my own speed. The worst part was there was not a lot of time with my teachers.  I liked it. I could do other things during the day.

What are the greatest challenges you have faced during the pandemic?

It was hard to be away from kids.  My grandparents got sick with coronavirus. They went to a family wedding and got sick. Pop-pop went to the hospital. We canceled the wedding!  Passover was weird. We were alone and had people on Skype.

What did you miss the most when you were living under stay-at-home orders?

People. I missed my friends. I miss my grandparents in Florida. I can’t see them. I can’t see my brother with special needs. He doesn’t understand that if we FaceTime that we aren’t really there.

What are the ways that you have found joy in the past few months?

Listened to 200 plus podcasts on myths and legends! Filled up my juniors Girl Scout best. I did 4 journeys and dozens of patches!  I had a lot of time to do things I like to do. I read 4 “Keepers Of the Lost Cities” books, 2 Aru Shah books, and a few more.

I like audiobooks and while I put together puzzles and did legos, I listened to the entire Harry Potter series, The Girl Who Drank the Moon, 3 Hunger Games books, and The War that Saved My Life.

I love podcasts and listened to 200 Myths and Legends, Ben Franklin’s Word, and The Past and the Curious! I learned that I like Japanese and native mythology.

I decided to work really hard on Girl Scouts. I did programs from Texas, Florida, California, Virginia, Montana, and Alaska. I earned dozens of patches and badges. I loved that the Girl Scouts of Alaska invited me to stem career programs. I went to a meet an astronaut day, talked to a marine biologist, and found out about sewers in Florida! I worked on my Summit Award which is a big deal because it is three journeys and took a long time. Here’s my project!

My mother signed me up for a camp about Matisse in Morocco. I painted my friend Kira for this class. It was fun!

I learned how to change my sheets, scrub the floor, and clean the toilet. My mom said we have to change my sheets every Friday because we have standards.

My mom is Italian she taught me to make pasta from scratch! We live-streamed with her friend who is a chef And did a charity event for the Liver Foundation! That was super fun!

I have been learning French on my own.

Then, in July I got really bored and decided to learn javascript. And, I do mobymax.

Are there other observations about this time that you’d like to share for the Archival collection?

I missed seeing kids. It was kind of lonely, but I did ok.

Bryn '30

What would you want students at MFS in the future to know about what this time has meant to you? What advice would you give them?

Work hard and stay focused and you can get through anything.

How did you feel about remote learning? What was the best part about learning from home? What was the worst part?

Remote learning was hard because you didn’t get to do the same things you do at school. The best part was getting to be home with my family and the worst part was not seeing my teachers and friends in person.

What are the greatest challenges you have faced during the pandemic?

Not seeing my friends was hard.

What did you miss the most when you were living under stay-at-home orders?

Seeing my teachers and friends.

What are the ways that you have found joy in the past few months?

Learning how to do new things like rainbow looms and playing new games like scrabble and Catan.

Elle '32

What would you want students at MFS in the future to know about what this time has meant to you? What advice would you give them?

The world is different because I don’t get to see my friends and teachers. Have fun even if things are hard.

How did you feel about remote learning? What was the best part about learning from home? What was the worst part?

I didn’t like virtual school because I only got a little time with my teacher. We did get to do some fun stuff at home like mystery challenges from my teacher.

What are the greatest challenges you have faced during the pandemic?

It was hard to not be able to play with your friends.

What did you miss the most when you were living under stay-at-home orders?

I missed my teachers and friends and playing on the playground after school.

What are the ways that you have found joy in the past few months?

I liked not having to rush to get to school. Also, I got a dog.

Norah '32

What would you want students at MFS in the future to know about what this time has meant to you? What advice would you give them?

Try to take your mind off of it by having fun with your family.

How did you feel about remote learning? What was the best part about learning from home? What was the worst part?

The best part was getting to see all of my friends on the computer. The worst part was not going to school and seeing my teacher.

What did you miss the most when you were living under stay-at-home orders?

Going to the movies

What are the ways that you have found joy in the past few months?

Getting to stay with my family

Marco '34

What would you want students at MFS in the future to know about what this time has meant to you? What advice would you give them?

The pandemic taught me to cherish my family as well as acknowledge and appreciate my privileges in life. My advice is to make the best of each moment and be ready to adapt to any situation life presents you with.

How did you feel about remote learning? What was the best part about learning from home? What was the worst part?

Remote learning during the quarantine allowed me to stay connected with my teachers and classmates. The best part of learning from home was the opportunity for my parents to be directly involved in my lessons and activities. The worst part was not being able to play with my classmates and explore a physical classroom.

What are the greatest challenges you have faced during the pandemic?

My greatest challenge during the pandemic was not being able to see my family in Italy. I missed a summer of life with them that can never be given back. It was also difficult to stop my training in sports. My swim coach was training me to be the youngest swim competitor at my swim club and I did not have a pool or gym to train at. I did my best at home, but it was a challenge to maintain an elite level of fitness.

What did you miss the most when you were living under stay-at-home orders?

I missed field trips with my parents, play dates, traveling, training at my pool and gym, and hugging my American grandparents.

What are ways that you have found joy in the past few months?

I found joy in slowing down the fast paced life I had before the pandemic. We watched more movies as a family and I helped to cook more meals. I will always cherish this quality time with my mom and dad.

Are there other observations about this time that you’d like to share for the Archival collection?

Success in life is achieved by one’s ability to adapt in challenging circumstances. View these challenges as opportunities to reinvent yourself. I improved my life by being innovative and creative. Harness your strengths and you will always transform into a better version of YOU.

Anonymous

How did you feel about remote learning? What was the best part about learning from home? What was the worst part?

Remote learning was a challenge when I began to realize that we would not be able to return to school for the remainder of the school year. I enjoyed spending more time with my family and picking up new hobbies. Because we had to stay at home all day, we were able to play board games and watch movies more often. The worst part about virtual learning was not being able to spend time with my friends. School is a place for learning, but it is also a place to make memories with your peers. Not being able to see my friends in person was definitely the worst part about remote learning.

What are ways that you have found joy in the past few months?

I found joy in picking up new hobbies and enjoying the outdoors. Outdoor activities such as going on hikes or just taking a walk are a great way to release stress and get out of the house. Also, I started a bullet journal and have been trying my best to try to do things other than watch TV or be on my phone. COVID-19 has allowed me to get out of my comfort zone and explore things that I wouldn’t have if we weren’t in a pandemic.

Palav Babaria '99

Since the beginning of the COVID19 pandemic, sleep, for many of us, has become elusive. I find myself awake at odd hours, worried about all the questions to which I have no answers. What do I say when my son has nightmares about his father, working on the frontlines getting COVID and dying? How can I expect him to trust and lean on his new 1st grade teacher, whom he’s never met, through zoom, when he hits walls of frustration rather than bursting into tears? Am I masking and washing enough to keep myself from bringing COVID19 home to my loved ones? 

How do I help my patient on dialysis who’s sinking so deeply into her depression that she routinely skips dialysis, to the point of near-death? Moreover, how do I do this remotely over a telephone when I can’t even look her in the face? How do I support my team at the public hospital where I work to adapt our healthcare to telehealth, with patients who may not even have a personal computer, a home internet connection, or the ability to navigate our websites in English and Spanish? 

And then, there were murders: George Floyd, Sean Monterrosa, Rayshard Brooks. And our country, in brave voices, started asking the questions that have been staring us in the face for years, decades, and centuries but which we didn’t listen to fervently enough. Our hospital system started asking the right questions—why aren’t we at the forefront of providing COVID19 testing in the most vulnerable communities in Alameda County? Why aren’t we finding solutions to the wildfire spread of COVID19 in our LatinX families who don’t have the luxury to ‘self quarantine’ in a shared apartment or forego essential work? Why haven’t we invested more in addressing the shocking maternal mortality for black women in our county? 

And then, the pandemic raged through the summer. And the wildfires came to California, bigger than ever, and I started walking out my front door into a smoke-filled haze. And my patients got sicker—with the weight of 6 months of sheltering in place, the depression of social isolation and financial stress as jobs have been lost and benefits have run out. So now, my days are filled with tears: my 43 year old patient from Guatemala who lost her job and is having panic attacks because she doesn’t know how to feed her family and pay her rent; my 78 year old Ethiopian patient who has stopped going to church and exercising and now has uncontrolled diabetes, making her sicker, and sadder; my 28 year old patient who got caught in gunfire on the streets of Oakland, had surgery, but wasn’t able to follow up due to COVID19 and now can’t move her left arm. My dialysis patient, who fought her depression, but passed away last week of COVID19. 

And so now, sleep is still elusive for me. But it’s filled with different questions. How is it, that we as a nation, have elected leaders who ignore public health wisdom for politics? It didn’t have to be this way.  How is it that we think elderly retirees deserve Medicare, but our most vulnerable patients, disproportionately brown, black, women and children should settle for Medicaid, which has been shown time and time again to be an inferior form of insurance with worse outcomes and higher mortality. How is it, that we can be the only industrialized nation without an adequate social safety net that provides healthcare, childcare and basic protections to civil liberty? 

And the most important question of all: How can we all, despite these limitations, be scrappy and creative and drive change for the right populations and the right outcomes. Because that time is now and yesterday and tomorrow. 

-Palav Babaria, MD, MHS
Primary Care Physician & Chief Administrative Officer, Ambulatory Services, Alameda Health System Oakland, California

Christine Chandran '21

Consider how your experience as a member of a Quaker school has impacted your perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic. Have you thought of the values central to the MFS community while you have been in isolation, and how have they framed your worldview during this unprecedented time?

Quaker values have played a role in how we have responded to this COVID crisis. In a way, it serves as a mask that protects us and others. We have learned the importance of helping our community, using our time and resources wisely, and keeping a strong mind during these unprecedented times.

Andrew Cooke

Consider how your experience as a member of a Quaker school has impacted your perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic. Have you thought of the values central to the MFS community while you have been in isolation, and how have they framed your worldview during this unprecedented time?

I believe the SPICE values central to the MFS community, has had exponential benefit while in isolation. Considering the societal unrest concurrent in this period, these values have framed my micro and macro worldview during this unprecedented time and provided me perspective and empathy.

If you had to sum up your experience over the past few months for future generations, what would be the first words that came to mind? And why? What advice or words of wisdom would you offer for future generations about getting through this difficult time?

Historic and world defining would be the word I would use to sum up my experience over the past few months for future generations. I would suggest to future generations to reflect on Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community and Equality (SPICE) to help find the wisdom and perspective needed to get through.

How did you feel about remote learning? What was the best part about learning from home? What was the worst part?

I was comfortable with remote leaning as the only viable contingency plan. The best part was the continuity of the learning, the worst part the adjustment and lack of personal interaction.

What are the greatest challenges you have faced during the pandemic?

The sense of isolation and disruption of norms.

What did you miss the most when you were living under stay-at-home orders?

Personal connectivity with family and friends.

What are ways that you have found joy in the past few months?

I have found joy in finding deeper primary family interactions, renewal of old friendships, the ability to have more time for family and hobbies while working from home and indulging in my personal passions given the additional time on my schedule having eliminated a long work commute to New York City daily. I have most enjoyed this ability to eliminate my commuting time and provide me additional hours for the pursuit of my existing hobbies such as landscape photography via my drone as well as developing new pastimes such as vermiculture and vermicomposting to raise earthworms to feed my aquarium goldfish, and re-connecting with old high school friends via Zoom VHHs and reconnecting with family via long nature hikes together.

How have you felt supported by the MFS community during the pandemic? In what ways have you experienced that support?

Absolutely! The frequent email and Zoom outreach, the virtual middle school graduation, being able to view the online learning all contributed to my experience of the support.

Are there other observations about this time that you’d like to share for the Archival collection? We are all concentrating on Working From Home (WFM) as becoming an option for the workforce, but might remote learning similarly become an option for our students?

This is a concept worth a deeper evaluation. My daughter has been participating in The Middle Grades Longitudinal Study of 2017-18 (MGLS:2017) which is a national study of middle-grade students being conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), part of the U.S. Department of Education. Given MGLS:2017 has been gathering information about the development and learning that occur during students’ middle-grade years, or grades 6 through 8 and my daughter is moving into grade 9, I am hoping the study is capturing the school, individual, social, and contextual factors that predict future student success with consideration for the disruptive variable of Covid-19 and bring new variables such as this into the equation.

Wendy Cooke

If you had to sum up your experience over the past few months for future generations, what would be the first words that came to mind? And why? What advice or words of wisdom would you offer for future generations about getting through this difficult time?

Reflective, Measured, Appreciative. New normal is not only a buzzword, it’s the reality. Keep everything in perspective. Try to find bright spots amid the chaos and disappointment. The world on pause allows more time spent with family and less scheduling. Recognizing that security and health are somewhat of a privilege and valuing what’s important. Seeing the best and the worst of people during the pandemic. Inequity is highlighted as many are less fortunate and have challenges that we did not endure.  Being grateful and thankful. Confident that we will make it through this pandemic together and hopefully be better people for the experience.

How did you feel about remote learning? What was the best part about learning from home? What was the worst part?

Remote learning was well done. From a parent’s perspective, I felt that the MFS staff adapted very well and relatively seamlessly. The transition was painless and the shift was successful, especially factoring in the abrupt nature of the experience. The best part was the opportunity for the kids to show their adaptability to remote learning. The worst part was of course the lack of direct personal social interaction, but that was understandable and unavoidable.

What are the greatest challenges you have faced during the pandemic?

Missing friends and social interactions.  No major challenges as we have been very fortunate throughout despite some minor inconveniences.  No complaints as other people have had to deal with many more serious issues.

What did you miss the most when you were living under stay-at-home orders?

Eating out and visiting friends.

What are the ways that you have found joy in the past few months?

More family time. Less day to day stress.

How have you felt supported by the MFS community during the pandemic? In what ways have you experienced that support?

Accessibility by e-mail and phone. Frequent updates. Offers of various outlets. Assurances that the students were a priority and the focus was on their well being.

John Donnelly '71

Consider how your experience as a member of a Quaker school has impacted your perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic. Have you thought of the values central to the MFS community while you have been in isolation, and how have they framed your worldview during this unprecedented time?

It’s easy to get preoccupied with how such an event affects oneself. MFS taught us to try to understand and respond to the impact of the pandemic on others especially vulnerable populations.

If you had to sum up your experience over the past few months for future generations, what would be the first words that came to mind? And why? What advice or words of wisdom would you offer for future generations about getting through this difficult time?

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that Nature is not in charge. It’s also a big mistake.

How did you feel about remote learning? What was the best part about learning from home? What was the worst part?

The pandemic response made it easier to take online courses from home as many more were offered. I was able to brush up on some things I did not have time to study before.

What are the greatest challenges you have faced during the pandemic?

Inability to have contact with family members.

What did you miss the most when you were living under stay-at-home orders?

Meetings and meals with friends, travel, the gym, haircuts.

What are the ways that you have found joy in the past few months?

Focusing on the science and trying to keep up with developments

How have you felt supported by the MFS community during the pandemic? In what ways have you experienced that support?

Emails from classmates were very welcome.

Are there other observations about this time that you’d like to share for the Archival collection?

In Ms. Levesque’s 10th grade biology class at MFS in 1968, we did a unit on microbiology and by the time it was done I knew I wanted to be an immunologist. By luck, I managed to end up an undergraduate at a large university which at the time also had one of the two Ph.D. programs in immunology that existed in the US. I started taking their courses as a senior undergrad and gained a spot on their training grant the following year. I was very well prepared for the small group discussions and independent thinking of grad school. It felt just like MFS and helped me forget the nightmare of 1,000-student undergraduate classes. After school, postdocs, and a brief stint as a faculty member I moved to the pharma industry in 1988 and began to work on vaccines. I found I much preferred doing things that had a practical application and was privileged to help bring several vaccines to market.

Fast forward 31 years to the spring of 2019 when I officially retired from fulltime work and moved to part-time consulting. Less than a year later people were talking about a few cases of something like SARS in South China that seemed to be less lethal and better adapted to spread between people than the original virus from 2003. Within a month I was under house arrest, a spectator, with no chance to travel or even go out to dinner. Thanks to preprint servers and open access journals I could supplement gardening with reading up on the work my friends and colleagues were doing and taking a few online classes to brush up on epidemiology, not something I had spent a lot of time on previously. I have had plenty of spare time to watch the train wreck that has been the US response to the “new” coronavirus.

I’ve given a few talks (via Zoom) to groups of local people to try to help them separate fact from fiction and better manage their risk. Looks like I’ll be doing that for a while.

Top ten things I learned from the coronavirus pandemic of 2020:

  1. Science education in the US needs a lot of improvement. So many people seem to lack critical reasoning skills and the ability to learn from observing the world around them. Teaching these skills must be a priority.
  2. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that Nature is not in charge. It’s also a big mistake.
  3. Changing human behavior is hard.
  4. Everyone, including scientists, interprets new experiences in the light of previous ones. The first impulse is to focus on the things that are the same between the new experience and past ones. The most important thing is to understand the differences.
  5. Infectious diseases most often are the same old thing – pathogens that humans have been living with for a very long time. In my career more new ones became threats (HIV, West Nile, Ebola, Zika, SARS, MERS, SARS-COV-2) than in any recent generation of scientists. The 1900s saw the first recorded influenza pandemic, the 1700s the introduction of smallpox and measles to North America and syphilis to Europe, and the 1300s, bubonic plague to Europe. In one way or another, travel of human populations has played a role in every one, as it helped pathogens gain access to new susceptible human populations.
  6. Successful pathogens make their living by being stealthy – not making the host severely ill, not every time, or at least not right away. Finding them, and learning how they can threaten human health, is the most important thing, and also the hardest part, at least in the beginning.
  7. There are four lineages of coronavirus that are endemic in human populations and cause only mild disease (common colds). They have been with humans for many years, maybe thousands. Now we have some idea what it was like for humans when those viruses first entered human populations.
  8. County health officers are the unsung heroes of the pandemic. They have taken responsibility forprotecting the public health when no one else would. Thank your county health officer today.
  9. Technology is an important help, but it supports reason, thought and coordinated action, it does not replace it.
  10. For the first time in many years, the public has seen science operating in real time. Making hypotheses, testing them, arguing about the results of the tests, throwing false hypotheses away and making new ones. Preprint servers and rapid online publication have helped science move at an unprecedented speed during the pandemic. We need to keep these ways of operating and maintain the pace for the next challenge and the one after that.
Debra Galler

Consider how your experience as a member of a Quaker school has impacted your perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic. Have you thought of the values central to the MFS community while you have been in isolation, and how have they framed your worldview during this unprecedented time?

As both a teacher and a parent at MFS, I’ve come to appreciate even more deeply the way that our school teaches/lives empathy. Having that core value expressed in our curriculum and in the relationship between students and teachers has been a lovely counterbalance to the growing lack of empathy I have observed in our country’s response to Covid-19. As we were forced apart, many of us kept a connection to the world through social media, which in turn inundated us with divisive, even cruel rhetoric. When I logged in to my online classes, or when I heard my kids engaging online with their teachers and peers, it felt like a respite from that flood of animosity. I felt uplifted when I heard my students making connections between the literature we read and the events happening in the world around them, and to see them “read” the world with an eye toward understanding and empathy. I also got to experience so much more of my kids’ Lower School experience than I ever have before, and I saw my own children being nurtured to see the world with open minds and hearts. That value has always been central to MFS, but it has felt even more crucial in recent months.

If you had to sum up your experience over the past few months for future generations, what would be the first words that came to mind? And why? What advice or words of wisdom would you offer for future generations about getting through this difficult time?

“Frustrated. Scared. Quiet. Why these three words? 

Frustrated: I often felt powerless, and, as a planner (I’m a teacher, after all), the lack of certainty has been incredibly hard. Looking at my own children and at my students, I see their frustration and fear, and I feel helpless. I want to offer answers, or assuage fears, but so much is unknown. I would advise future generations to give yourself a little grace, especially those of us who like to give everything 100 percent. This pandemic has been a reminder that sometimes we must just go with the flow, even when that’s outside of our comfort zones. 

Scared: This is scary! I worry for my family, for myself, for my students, for our whole community. I think my advice here is to own the fear and allow yourself to express it, but then to let some of it go. I was given the good advice to make a list of all of my fears and which ones were in my control vs. out of my control. The ones in my control I can take steps to avoid, and the ones out of my control I simply have to acknowledge but then let go. Easier said than done, for sure, but good advice nonetheless!

Quiet: Though my house is never actually quiet (teaching from home with two kids and a dog is not a recipe for quiet!), when I reflect on this time I’m drawn to how quiet our schedules became. We weren’t rushing from one place to another, and we had more time together than we ever have had or will likely have again. It’s a small silver lining in what has been a dark time in all of our lives, one that I know I am privileged to have.”

How did you feel about remote learning? What was the best part about learning from home? What was the worst part?

Remote learning has been… an experience! I felt like a first-year teacher again, which was both incredibly frustrating and, at times, exhilarating. Gone were the traditional rhythms of the school year, the rhythms that let some aspects of our teaching shift into auto-pilot. Gone was the traditional sense of the classroom, of a space where I assumed my role as teacher with confidence. Even small changes, like going from spending most of my day standing to spending most of my day sitting, made the feeling of teaching just… different. It was a learning curve, but I happen to love to learn, so I really enjoyed exploring new ways to do pretty much everything. Over the summer I’ve had the chance to learn a lot more, and I will be taking some of what I’ve learned last spring (about pacing, about useful digital tools, about what’s ACTUALLY necessary to go over as an entire class) into my future teaching, no matter what form it takes. The worst part (aside from Zoom’s uncanny ability to freeze up right when I’m making an incredibly awkward face), was the loss of the physical sense of the group. Looking into boxes doesn’t have the same impact as looking around a circle at people. Zoom robs me of the subtle cues that instantly tell me who is confused, who is checking out, who is upset about something that happened outside of class. We retained our ability to learn and to laugh together, but I missed my ability to “feel” the room. Sometimes when students turned their cameras off I felt deeply isolated, like I was talking into a void, and it was, at times, demoralizing. At other times, though, small groups came together wonderfully in the online environment – my advisor group bonded over doing online quizzes together and sharing a workout challenge (I’m still waiting for some of them to finish doing their push-ups, ahem). Remote learning, like any type of learning, has benefits and challenges.

What are the greatest challenges you have faced during the pandemic?

The hardest part for me has been more recently. I like certainty, so “stay at home” was an instruction I could clearly follow. The more recent months, where options have opened up to us and every day involves decisions — is it safe to go here? Is the risk worth it to let my children experience that? — have felt much more draining. I also felt extremely helpless as I watched the widespread and powerful protests for racial justice. I longed to connect with my students and with peers in person to help in our small community’s fight against racism and injustice.

What did you miss the most when you were living under stay-at-home orders?

Hugging my parents and letting my kids have playdates!

What are the ways that you have found joy in the past few months?

I committed to exercising at home every day of quarantine, and it really brightened my outlook. I felt stronger and more resilient. I got to introduce my children to movies from my childhood – and they actually liked them! I’ve also gotten to play lots of board games, which always makes me happy.

How have you felt supported by the MFS community during the pandemic? In what ways have you experienced that support?

Every time I logged in to my class and saw smiles and waves I felt supported (and so many students took the time to say “thank you” at the end of every class – it was so uplifting!). The administration was highly supportive of teachers during this time  — I felt like I could reach out for a conversation or a venting session at any time. My peers, especially my department, were incredible. To have this creative, funny, supportive group to reach out to was what got me through the steep learning curve of remote learning. From my students to my peers to my administrators, the ability to log on, share a smile, and have a laugh made me feel more connected.

Eva Gelernt '12

I’m currently finishing up my degree in nursing, preparing to become a licensed RN. In March, my school announced that some of the New York City hospitals needed help as COVID ramped up, so I and a group of classmates moved back from all over the country where we had been quarantining with family. These hospitals desperately needed all the help they could get as floors overflowed with patients, specialty floors were immediately converted to COVID floors, and the need for resources was a form of desperation I had never seen before in healthcare.

It was nothing I had even heard of before. I was placed on a pediatric COVID floor. A 12-year-old died on one of my shifts. I watched a corpse being wheeled out on another. I watched as an 18-year-old, recently extubated, was monitored continuously to ensure his O2 sats wouldn’t drop below the 90/91 percent he was shakingly clinging onto. I stood outside a patient room with 4 other RNs, ready to run in, as we watched a patient coughing so hard his sats dropped to 80 – the nurse in the room rushingly trying to help him clear his airway, doing everything we’ve been taught to do. He settled at 89 – not good but better. That was the new headspace: the normalization of death, the expectation of DNR/DNI, the postmortem care we had not been emotionally taught to handle.

Visitors aren’t allowed in. Pediatric patients are allowed 1 visitor at a time. I sat with a 25-year-old on a few shifts; he had been intubated for over a month and then was transferred to the hospital at which I worked. He asked if I had any free time on my shift to just come and sit with him; he hadn’t had a visitor in over 2 months.

I became very used to the routine: come home at 8am, strip at the door and throw my scrubs into a trash bag, sear myself in the shower, take a sleeping pill to shut off my head, sleep as long as I can, and then do it again. I found myself questioning if this field was the right choice for me because this was, and is so much harder than I thought it would be.

But then I remember that the 25-year-old was discharged to rehab with no need for additional oxygen. I remember that the 18-year-old told me with a smile at his 12:00am vitals that he was getting to be discharged tomorrow morning so long as his vitals stayed stable all night. I remember the nurses ecstatically checking the ED census and seeing less than 10 admissions that night. I remember that these patients got better and god, does that make me happy.

I know, though, that so many didn’t get better, and my happiness is quickly met with anger. I’m so angry that people are dying alone, let alone dying at all. I’m angry that kids are so sick and dying from this. I’m angry that Mother Nature is pushing back so severely because we haven’t been listening to her for decades when she needed us to. I’m angry that I want to find a silver lining in this and there just might not be one.

When this thing ends, do not forget what we have learned: Teachers deserve much greater pay; Grocery store workers, delivery men, those who have kept us all going – deserve much greater pay; Universal healthcare MATTERS. Remember the organizations that supported this country during this time and support them back. Remember the organizations that didn’t.

Remember that each individual carries the burden and responsibility to make choices to protect each other, even when it is inconvenient or difficult; some things are too big to not give our full attention and full effort.

Ciani Green '14

If you had to sum up your experience over the past few months for future generations, what would be the first words that came to mind? And why? What advice or words of wisdom would you offer for future generations about getting through this difficult time?

Giving grace.  This was a new experience for everyone and we were all doing our best to figure it out. It was easy to be frustrated and even easier to be angry. We had to wait for scientists and doctors to give us the facts about the virus symptoms and spread. We had to wait for districts to make decisions about remote learning and our eventual return to school. Some parents were being faced with food insecurity, possible evictions, furloughs, layoffs, and much more that we not only now had to deal with from afar but it also led to inconsistent remote instruction participation. 

Most importantly, I had to give myself grace especially during those moments when I didn’t want to work, didn’t want to exercise, and didn’t want to get out of bed. This pandemic was unprecedented and there was no way to prepare myself for what was to come and I needed to give myself grace as I attempted to tackle each day. 

My words of wisdom are to give yourself and others grace during difficult times. We are all figuring it out and there will be frustration, anger, and sadness. We can make it a little bit easier on ourselves in others by being kind and giving grace.

How did you feel about remote learning? What was the best part about learning from home? What was the worst part?

I was a Family and Operations Coordinator for a preschool so we were forced to be especially creative when it came to remote learning. Our students could not simply log into classes and submit assignments. Furthermore, our curriculum has a heavy focus on socialization which is hard to replicate virtually. The best part was having the safety of our staff and students prioritized but the worst part was losing the in-person connection with our families.

What are the greatest challenges you have faced during the pandemic?

Getting used to being lonely, and sometimes unproductive.

What did you miss the most when you were living under stay-at-home orders?

Being able to visit my friends in other states.

What are the ways that you have found joy in the past few months?

Weekly zoom happy hours with my college friends from across the country.

How have you felt supported by the MFS community during the pandemic? In what ways have you experienced that support?

I enjoyed viewing the zoom singing videos.

Yilin Huang '24

What did you miss the most when you were living under stay-at-home orders?

I really miss the social connections with others and the feeling of going outside in the summer. That’s why I wrote the poem.

Are there other observations about this time that you’d like to share for the Archival collection?

My artwork isn’t really an observation, but a small summary of what happened during quarantine or objects that symbolize quarantine. A lot of things have happened during quarantine, whether it’s from the world or just inside our house. Our mindset changed. Our skills get improved or maybe worsen. And our weight changes. That’s why I spelled out the word, “quarantine” in many different things, because you can not summarize it with only one word, and everyone had different changes.

Sarah Huynh '25

What are the greatest challenges you have faced during the pandemic?

I had some days where I was really down. I missed everyone a lot and I wished I could go out and visit my friends and family. However, I think my parents faced the biggest challenges. My dad goes out early almost every morning to go help test people for Covid. There are some days that I don’t even see him. My mom is constantly working at home and also has to take care of my sister and me. They both are working really hard to provide us with what we need and more and they also help us through any of our struggles. I am so grateful to have them as my parents and I am really thankful that they have helped make our time at home fun.

What are the ways that you have found joy in the past few months?

Although we were limited in the places we could go, the pandemic allowed us to spend quality time with our families. I got to spend a lot of time playing games with my family. We played all sorts of things from card games to video games! There was a big storm towards the end of the virtual school year and we lost power for three days. Our family got to enjoy a lot of time playing games and doing crafts, instead of just being online. It was nice to have this time with them that we wouldn’t have normally.

Are there other observations about this time that you’d like to share for the Archival collection?

This summer, MFS offered “mini-courses” that students could take. I did a few including Model UN and Experimental Watercolors. Through the courses, I found new hobbies that I enjoy, including experimenting with my art! These classes were really enjoyable to take. I learned a lot in all of them and it was nice to have this time to try new things during the pandemic.

Riccardo Longo '89 and Gigio Longo '94

Gran Caffè L’Aquila in Philadelphia was born out of tragedy. The original caffè won caffè of the year for all of Italy in  2007, represented Italian coffee culture at the g8 summit, and was owned by the gelato champion of Italy, Stefano Biasini. On April 9th, 2009 it all literally came crashing down in the devastating earthquake that destroyed the city of L’aquila and its famous Caffe. 

After a couple of years, it became evident that it would take 20 years to rebuild the historic city. Biasini and Riccardo Longo (class of ‘89, father of Marina Longo ‘24) decided to think outside the box and bring an authentic Italian experience to Philadelphia. Thus they rebuilt Gran caffè L’Aquila on Chestnut in Philadelphia as a ‘Made in Italy’ project that took over 3 years to complete with an opening on December 24, 2014. Besides the caffè,  the partners also built a restaurant featuring the cuisine of all 20 regions, an Italian bar, a coffee and gelato laboratory, as well as a culture and language school all manned by many native Italians. The operation was overseen by members of the Longo family including me, Gigio Longo (Class of 94), and my brother Roberto (class of 99).

Flash forward 5 years to 2019 and Gran Caffè L’Aquila was enjoying incredible success as an international destination for an authentic Italian experience be it for cuisine, Italian bar, events, culture classes, or Seria A soccer. Accolades included, locally, Best of Philly, Philadelphia Concierge Association ‘Best Restaurant’,  Italian-American Business Council ‘International Project of the Year’. Among the International recognition was Gambero Rosso ‘Restaurant Excellence Award’ &  ‘Coffee Roasting excellence award’, Wine Spectator Award, America-Italy Society ‘Italian Culture Award’ and finally on December 8th, 2019 journalists in Rome bestowed the prestigious  ‘Eccelenze Italiane’ award on Riccardo & Stefano for their contribution to expounding authentic Italian culture which included a presentation of the project to the Italian Parliament. At the Apex of our success little did we know, the next earthquake was just a couple of months away. 

Italy was the 1st western nation hit hard by COVID 19. In January and February, our concerns were with our family members in Italy. By March,  the epicenter had quickly moved to the USA. On  March 16th all restaurants in the state of Pennsylvania were ordered closed for dining. We had inside information from Italy on just how bad this virus was so we decided to completely cease operations including takeout for the safety of our employees and guests. 

By April 16th it was understood that this was going to be a long-term epidemic and it was clear that we would not be able to operate as we did before for some time. Thus we decided to remain closed until there was a sense that it was relatively safe for our staff to come back.

We have a restaurant family of 70 employees that depend on our business for their livelihood and we realized we would need to pivot and once again reinvent Gran Caffè L’Aquila when we did reopen to support them. My brother and I would spend 8 to 10 hours a day on a computer designing a web-based version of our business during the lockdown. The goal of Gran Caffè L’Aquila was always to give our guests an authentic Italian experience. Our idea was to now bring that experience to them at home. Thus we created an online luxury market of Italian products from our award-winning gelato and coffee to Italian cheeses, charcuterie, chocolate, pasta, olive oils, Italian pantry, and luxury bath and beauty products that could be delivered nation-wide. We even contracted with mercato.com to do premium grocery delivery of our fine ingredients to our guests. 

When we weren’t working on the new business plan we were on the phones with government contacts and trade associations fighting for our industry’s survival by pushing for legislation specific to our industry. In the end, the PPP was what we got, but in an industry where our dining rooms were closed, it was quite useless. 

In June, we finally felt it was relatively safe enough, in terms of the virus, to bring our staff back to open for takeout and the grand opening of our new online market, as well as a physical market on the 1st floor of the Caffè. We ordered the food & supplies, retrained the staff, remodeled to a market concept, and were ready to open. The day before the re-grand opening the riots began. I watched on closed-circuit television as rioters pulled a piano out of our neighbor’s store and destroyed it in front of ours. As smoke rose directly behind us from a building being burned down, our partner Stefano refused to accept this fate. My brother, Riccardo, was knocked out of commission with a concussion and cracked shoulder from a previous robbery a block from the Caffè. Thus Stefano on his own decided to protect our building. After watching the original Caffè get destroyed in an earthquake he would not allow the same fate here. He stood guard, outside the door of Gran Caffè L’aquila as rioters destroyed the whole block, even though we asked him to stand down. The next morning from Dibruno Brothers to Nordstrom the frontage of our entire block was destroyed except our building. 

A week later, In the ruined state of our block, we quietly opened for delivery, as a luxury Italian market and a virtual online store. 

Incredibly, in the 1st 3 months, we have shipped our gelato, coffee, and other products of Italian excellence to over 40 states. This, along with the delivery business, has allowed us to bring back about half of our staff. Unfortunately, with the huge overhead of a large city structure and with the city not allowing indoor dining we were struggling nonetheless. 

I had the opportunity to speak to Philadelphia city council leaders about the plight of our street and they did listen and provided us police and extra security. Slowly things got slightly better, and we eventually opened outdoor seating. 

Unfortunately, Philadelphia did not allow any indoor seating until Sept 8th which put most restaurants on the brink. We have been proponents of the Restaurants Act of 2020  legislation which our industry needs to survive. Even with limited indoor seating, many restaurants will not be able to make it through the year if the status quo continues. As we try to push forward this critical legislation, we also continue to market our new hybrid business model because the future of restaurants is in doubt. It’s interesting to think that we began the year as a celebrated restaurant and culture school and now we are a retail-online-restaurant hybrid. 

My Nonno once told me and my brothers to remember that it’s how one handles the hard times that define their character. He was a World War II P.O.W., part of what is known as the ‘Greatest Generation’. From an earthquake to a pandemic, to violent riots and looting, to our industry collapsing, we are most certainly being tested. In a broader sense, this is our generation’s World War II and let’s hope that another great generation will emerge from the struggle.

Ken Mayer '68

When I first read about the novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China in early January 2020, I was concerned, but not surprised. As an Infectious Disease specialist focusing on HIV, the idea that any new pathogen could fuel a global pandemic was not new. Many researchers, clinicians, and public health officials recognized for several decades that with increased human encroachment on diverse animal habitats, and with unprecedented human travel, a major outbreak was possible. A health journalist, Laurie Garrett, wrote a definitive book about the issues, “The Coming Plague,” in 1994. Fortunately, prior to COVID-19, society dodged the bullet, being able to detect and contain potential pandemics like SARS and Ebola before they became widely established. As a researcher and clinician, watching the US response to COVID-19 has been painful, seeing a bad situation made incredibly worse because of governmental incompetence has made me angry, sad, and scared. Boston was one of the first heavily hit cities in the US in late March and April, but after an extensive shutdown since June, the pandemic has gotten into relative control. In the short run, taking public health measures seriously is the only way we can keep the pandemic from spiraling out of control. This means everyone should wear masks when out in public, and in closed settings when others are present besides members of one’s pod; physical distancing and good hand hygiene are also important. We need to scale up testing and contact tracing, which is easier to do when the spread of the virus is slower. None of this is rocket science, just requires competent national leadership, which we have lacked. What is rocket science is the development and deployment of safe and effective vaccines. I am modestly optimistic about these efforts since many of us who do HIV clinical trials were asked to create sites for the conduct of COVID-19 vaccine trials. The federal government is scaling up large efficacy trials of 5 different COVID-19 vaccines, which will require enrolling 150,000 volunteers before the end of this calendar year. If one or more of these vaccines is effective, we will eventually have a way to control the pandemic and begin to reclaim the lives we used to know, but this will not happen overnight, so we all need to be careful for the foreseeable future.

Jamie Neff '21

Sewing machines have been busy since the beginning of the pandemic. Here are some masks made by Jamie Neff ’21.

Michelle Marinucci Niewood '01

What are the greatest challenges you have faced during the pandemic?

The biggest challenge during the pandemic has been keeping up with the demands of work and balancing 2 young children (3 yrs and 6 yrs).  I have lost a sense of work-life balance as the 2 worlds have collided.  For now, I try my best to balance a full career with little ones and I frequently remind myself that 2020 is a time when life is out of sorts, a bit chaotic, and complicated but “this too shall pass”.

What are the ways that you have found joy in the past few months?

Pre-COVID, we hardly knew anyone in our new neighborhood and at best, someone would give a quick wave as they pulled in their driveway. To my surprise, in the early Spring, we started seeing many of our neighbors outside and we finally had an opportunity to get to know them (with the appropriate social distancing of course). The silver lining is that we found a new community of people right outside of our doorstep who we probably would never have met had there not been a pandemic.

Lee Porter '95

When Covid struck Philadelphia in March, Azuka Theatre (in Center City Philadelphia) was in the middle of our 3-week production run for SHIP (a World Premiere, written by Philly playwright Douglas Williams). We ended up cancelling performances for the final weekend, as the serious reality of Covid and Quarantining finally sunk in with most everyone in the Greater Philly area that weekend of Friday March 13th.

Azuka Board and staff ended up virtually meeting every week at the beginning of March Quarantine, as we needed to figure out what we were going to do moving forward. We had our third production of the season (the World Premiere of A Room At The Flamingo Hotel, written by Philly playwright Lena Barnard) scheduled to run April 29th through May 17th. It became quite clear that this production — and live theater (and, heck, live arts) in general — was not going to safely happen for sometime. So we had to postpone that. production. (I’m proud to say that Azuka was able to pay all the artists for that show even though we never saw it come to the stage.)

So then, we had to consider further next steps. Would we be able to do our normal three-play season starting in the fall of this year or not? Should we try virtual readings or productions? There was so much unknown that we were contemplating. And then as the Black Lives Matter movement and protests took place in Philly and throughout the country and the world, we realized that we had to reexamine our focus even more during this time.

Azuka Theatre’s mission is “to strengthen the connection and shared humanity among its diverse audiences by giving voice to the people whose stories go unheard.” We recently decided to prematurely announce that we are not going to produce any plays for the upcoming 2020-2021 season. Instead of producing (if we even could), Azuka’s staff and Board are eager to thoroughly respond to the calls for change being made by BIPOC artists in Philadelphia and throughout the country, and we have defined goals set out to fully accomplish this. While many theater companies have been promoting their 2020-2021 seasons, Azuka is taking a fully opposite approach and making great use of that to be better than ever when we return.

(We are the first Philly theater company to announce a full season being canceled, as far as I know.)

Practically speaking, I’m not sure that there will be much live indoor theater anytime soon. Until there is a vaccine, there would have to be so many Covid-protocols and procedures in place for the indoor theater to be safe — timing audiences entering and exiting one group at a time, properly spaced out reserved

seating, paper vs digital programs, properly cleaning the theater before and after each performance, testing cast and crew, the spacing of cast and crew, bathrooms, etc. The expenses would be well beyond any normal operating costs, and audiences being that spaced out would make it such a strange, empty experience that is the polar opposite of the excitement of a packed house.

Many theater companies have jumped into virtual productions — be those readings via Zoom, Twitch, Facebook Live, etc. — where cast and crew are at their own individual computers or properly spaced out on the same stage. We debated doing our upcoming productions online, and I’m proud that Azuka came to the conclusion that virtual theater just isn’t nearly the same experience as live in-person theater, in our opinion.

Azuka is lucky in so many ways that other theater companies are not. We were the first theater company in Philly (and America, from what we know) to offer a “Pay What You Decide” (PWYD) program — where the audience pays for what they valued the experience after the performance is over. With this program in place since 2016, we wanted to remove the financial barrier of seeing theater – particularly new theater work – and open the doors to anyone interested in attending a show. This also means that our budget is not reliant on up-front subscriptions. So if we’re not producing anything, then we can survive without the advance ticket purchases that most theater companies rely on. We’re also hopeful that our PWYD program will be even more popular when we eventually get out of this Covid era and produce again. Similarly, while many other theater companies have to stress the financial burdens of owning their venues, Azuka shares an amazing space in Center City (featuring two different theaters that can stage shows at the same time) with many other theater companies.

It’s sad to have the theater lights out in Philly and around the country and the world. The greater Arts community suffers tremendously during times like this. Artists do not have normal salaries with benefits, and a lot of their non-art incomes have been affected as the restaurant and catering world has been devastated as well – where many artists work full- or part-time when not producing, performing, or on tour. I urge everyone to support your local arts as much as you can during these difficult times.

Whether it’s a middle school play at MFS or a Tony-winning production on Broadway, I miss live theater (and live performances of all genres in general). I so greatly miss the anticipation as the audience lights go dark and the stage lights get bright. I miss the surrounding sounds in the audience — programs ruffling, candy wrappers crinkling when being opened, random coughs and sneezes, and heck, I almost miss the random cellphone going off during a live show. Most of all, I miss the connection of the audience and the artists, where everyone is experiencing the same thing at the same time and yet experiencing it in their own ways.

I miss the laughter — even the annoying obnoxious laughs.

I miss being moved to tears — and failing to fight them back in public. I miss the applause and Bravo’s. I miss the standing ovations. And I miss seeing the smiling cast and crew take a bow. I always wonder if they’ll ever fully understand how much their work means to me and everyone in attendance. Unfortunately, with the current absence of live indoor theater, I think we all recognize how much their work means to us now.

I look forward to the lights coming back on as soon as can be. Please support your local arts as much as you can during these difficult times. Bravo, MFS! Onwards & Upwards!

To find out more about Azuka Theatre and support us in various ways, please visit www.AzukaTheatre.org and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Krista Schweiker

A COVID Presentation

If you had to sum up your experience over the past few months for future generations, what would be the first words that came to mind? And why? What advice or words of wisdom would you offer for future generations about getting through this difficult time?

Resiliency, adaptability, and change. When faced with uncertainty we recognized that to move forward we needed to embrace change – how we work, how we learn, and how to live in a new normal. It has made our family stronger and we know we can count on each other and we realize that change is constant.

What did you miss the most when you were living under stay-at-home orders?

Freedom to move within my community without fear of getting sick. 

What are the ways that you have found joy in the past few months?

Benefit of being with my children before they went to college and realizing I may not have this extended period of time with them again.

How have you felt supported by the MFS community during the pandemic? In what ways have you experienced that support?

As a parent of a MFS senior, I am very impressed by the caring and thoughtful approach to keeping students safe and recognizing seniors during their last year of high school.

Are there other observations about this time that you’d like to share for the Archival collection?

The world seemed to change overnight and the norms in place were turned upside down.  We had to learn a new way to live and things we took for granted like access to food, how we learn, how we work changed drastically.  But through this period, we realized how resilient we are as people and a country.

Jenna Serrota '23

Consider how your experience as a member of a Quaker school has impacted your perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic. Have you thought of the values central to the MFS community while you have been in isolation, and how have they framed your worldview during this unprecedented time?

I just thought that even though we were apart, we’re still together.

If you had to sum up your experience over the past few months for future generations, what would be the first words that came to mind? And why? What advice or words of wisdom would you offer for future generations about getting through this difficult time?

This experience was different. It definitely requires us to find a new normal but it’s good that we got through a lot already. It is important to remain positive and resilient.

How did you feel about remote learning? What was the best part about learning from home? What was the worst part?

Consider how your experience as a member of a Quaker school has impacted your perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic. Have you thought of the values central to the MFS community while you have been in isolation, and how have they framed your worldview during this unprecedented time?

Remote learning was definitely not as effective as in-person learning, but we managed. The best part was having more breaks in the day and having everything needed right on hand. Although there were many positive aspects to remote learning, it was hard to connect with my peers on a personal level.

What are the greatest challenges you have faced during the pandemic?

It’s challenging to know that your friends and peers are so close but still out of reach.

What did you miss the most when you were living under stay-at-home orders?

I missed my friends and my teachers and teammates.

What are the ways that you have found joy in the past few months?

I took a whole bunch of summer courses. I took Summer Chemistry, Algebra 2, and AP German. I also managed to read 4 novels in German and work on my photography skills on a long trip to Alaska to see the mountains.

How have you felt supported by the MFS community during the pandemic? In what ways have you experienced that support?

To be honest, there wasn’t much support. My teachers during the school year were responsive and helpful, but during the summer they were all pretty much distant and unresponsive.

Are there other observations about this time that you’d like to share for the Archival collection?

This was annoying. I miss the way it used to be. Yes, there was a lot of personal character development, and I don’t think that hitting a reset button would make me the same person I am today.

Carina Smith '22

Consider how your experience as a member of a Quaker school has impacted your perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic. Have you thought of the values central to the MFS community while you have been in isolation, and how have they framed your worldview during this unprecedented time?

Looking at the general population compared to those who follow a Quaker world view, it seems there is a great lack of empathy and critical thinking in our country. Science deniers and those who put their self interests over the well-being of the community reinforce the value of a Quaker education where we learn to think of others before ourselves and to value science and expertise is key.

If you had to sum up your experience over the past few months for future generations, what would be the first words that came to mind? And why? What advice or words of wisdom would you offer for future generations about getting through this difficult time?

Be flexible, take time for reflection, seek creative ways to interact. Spending time alone allows for greater understanding of yourself and the world around you. Stay connected, but also use the time for positive personal change.

How did you feel about remote learning? What was the best part about learning from home? What was the worst part?

It worked well for me. I liked being able to go back and watch the classes again. It really helped in my understanding of the material. Online group projects felt much more difficult to coordinate since there was no “class time” and everyone seemed to have a different schedule. Having a better way to communicate with other students would be helpful.

What are the greatest challenges you have faced during the pandemic?

Making sure that my actions do not potentially impact (infect) my 97-year old grandfather.

What did you miss the most when you were living under stay-at-home orders?

In-person game nights with friends, our summer cruise, eating in restaurants with my family.

What are the ways that you have found joy in the past few months?

I found that I enjoy solitude more than I thought. Finally having time to do activities that I often don’t have time for (art projects, helping rescue cats, watching movies, doing puzzles, and generally hanging out with my family). I had a “socially distant” traveling virtual 16th birthday party with our small circle of family/friends. I participated in our town’s march to support BLM, which was very meaningful to me as Quaker and an ally.

How have you felt supported by the MFS community during the pandemic? In what ways have you experienced that support?

The two summer mini-camps were really great and I felt connected to the school and my classmates. I learned a great deal about the photography and art portfolio subject matter that will help me in the future. I also was very happy to see the school support the Black Lives Matter movement on the school sign and with the email information provided to students and parents. I participated in several vigils and marches and felt very connected to the school community.

Ann Stouffer Thornton '07

I co-own a fitness studio in the Washington Square area of Philadelphia that opened in July of 2019. Tuck Barre & Yoga now has five brick and mortar locations in and around Philadelphia that are owned by my good friends/business partners, Callie & Hagana Kim. 

We shut down all studios on March 15 and clunkily transitioned to teaching free (donation-based) Facebook Live classes 7 days a week. When it became clear that we were not going to open our doors any time soon, we adjusted our offerings for the long term, adding outdoor and Zoom classes as well as an affordable online on-demand platform to accommodate the new reality of working out from home. 

When Philadelphia began talks of reopening fitness studios and gyms this summer, it was inconceivable to think about opening when heavy breathing in enclosed spaces is just about the worst thing you can do. In-person fitness, while important, is not essential. Not opening was an easy decision when the alternative was endangering people’s lives. The reason I was drawn to owning this business in the first place – the tight-knit and encouraging community we had worked so hard to build – fully supported and embraced the decision. 

One positive that’s come out of this crisis is the ability to broaden our reach. The fitness world is overwhelmingly white and privileged. With various online offerings, we have been able to provide workout options for a more diverse group of people. Some who might have found walking into a studio intimidating or out of reach can now participate from the comfort of their own space.

So we’re continuing to host socially-distanced classes at local outdoor bars, in parking lots, and on rooftops. We’re still doing Zoom and Facebook classes and creating content for our on-demand platform. It’s not the same, but it’s something. I’m not sure if we’ll ever go back to in-person classes as we knew them before. While I don’t carry much burden, I’ve seen my partners go through the struggle of many small business owners – continuing to pay rent for five shuttered locations with no relief in sight while still paying teachers for classes that aren’t filling.  Unfortunately, I’m sure I’m just one of many in the MFS community who face losing investment and businesses in the face of COVID-19.

Ryan W. Turkington '07

Including my residency training, I have practiced emergency medicine for a little over 5 years now. I am grateful that I have had time to establish myself before Covid 19 really began. I currently practice at a regional hospital about 90 miles away from the Covid hotspot of Houston, Texas. At first, the pandemic started as a mere curiosity in a far away land. It seemed as if it were impossible for the pandemic to reach the US. We mostly regarded it as if it were the Ebola outbreaks in Africa from a few years ago; concerning but not likely going to affect us. Once the virus arrived stateside, I remember the panic that went through the community. There were so many unknowns which was probably the scariest thing for everybody, including myself. It seemed inevitable that it was going to reach our community, and no one knew how to treat this disease or what a strain it would place on our resources. I was one of our first physicians to take care of a Covid 19 patient and it was a big deal being informed of this. I almost felt as if I were a leper; I had to wear a mask at all times and have my temperature taken before each shift that I worked. Little that I knew that this would soon become standard operating procedure for everyone coming to work in the hospital. There were some initial concerns for my own safety, however, I was much more concerned about potentially passing this illness on to any of my patients, especially the elderly ones. That still is my biggest worry as I take care of people. Little by little, that anxiety for my own safety waned as we settled into this new routine. Covid 19 had a significant impact directly as well as indirectly. We have started seeing people come in sicker than usual not just from Covid but from other chronic illnesses that they avoided seeking care for out of fear of contracting the virus. I have had patients die alone because of this illness and have seen young people with devastating, life-altering complications from Covid 19.  I have seen the effects of lost employment and devastated small businesses. Our collective stress due to Covid 19 is palpable and is heightened for anyone working in healthcare right now. This heaviness would drag anyone down. What I’ve learned more than anything is the importance of self-care.  Getting some sunshine, exercising, going on a trip (responsibly), doing anything that brings you joy, is so important in this time. Take care of each other, especially the elderly. So many of them are lonely and afraid during this time. Take the time to be a friend to others. We can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel now, but my hope is we will exit it with a greater appreciation of life and the things that make it worth living.

Vashti Williams '13

Consider how your experience as a member of a Quaker school has impacted your perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic. Have you thought of the values central to the MFS community while you have been in isolation, and how have they framed your worldview during this unprecedented time?

I’ve had a lot of experience sitting in silence, reflecting (every Wednesday for years, actually) and because I’ve learned how to be still, I’m not as shaken as many of my peers by the stay-at-home order. I still am active in my community, and I find simple ways to entertain myself: drawing, writing, baking. While the pandemic hasn’t been a cushy vacation by any means, I can challenge and engage with the silence and isolation in a meaningful way without being overtaken by it.

If you had to sum up your experience over the past few months for future generations, what would be the first words that came to mind? And why? What advice or words of wisdom would you offer for future generations about getting through this difficult time?

Find ways to adapt. Things are wildly different now from what I’m used to, and I’ve had to mourn that; but I’ve been able to find connection and community in new ways I hadn’t thought of before. I’ve discovered new ways to interact with my friends and my community because I’ve been flexible and proactive.

What did you miss the most when you were living under stay-at-home orders?

I’ve really missed cafes, museums, art shows…connecting with people in an informal setting.

What are the ways that you have found joy in the past few months?

I’ve been teaching myself digital art and animation, and it’s been incredible. I’ve loved expressing my creativity in a way I’ve never explored before, and I have been able to dedicate lots of time to learning and improving.

Are there other observations about this time that you’d like to share for the Archival collection?

A Haiku about Corona

Counting down the days
Until I can once again
Touch and hold my friends.

Jon Zaid '04

Jon Zaid MFS Class of 2004 was in his third year of Internal Medicine Residency at Jefferson when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the region in March 2020. He graduated in June and is currently a primary care physician in Philadelphia. The following essay is adapted from a post-Jon wrote in April for 34justice.com, a blog he shares with Ben Spielberg (’06).

When the pandemic began, many things in my life changed; my primary care clinic office hours were consolidated and daily teaching conferences were cancelled. I had a high risk coronavirus exposure and was self-quarantined until my negative result was confirmed. During weeks when I would usually see patients in the ambulatory clinic, which were temporarily closed due to the pandemic, I found myself wanting to get back in the action. I signed up for the Philadelphia Medical Reserve Corps as a “swabber” (obtaining samples from the back of the throat) at the South Philly screening site in the parking lot of Citizen’s Bank Park.

I had Phillies tickets for a game that was supposed to take place that weekend. But instead, I arrived at the stadium parking lot to see swathes of asphalt without cars. Instead, they’re filled with tents, traffic cones, and people gowned from head to toe in PPE (personal protective equipment) rather than tailgaters. This screening site was a joint venture between the Philly Department of Health, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). There was plenty of PPE to go around and I suspected this was due to FEMA’s presence because nobody seemed to be overly concerned about limiting volunteer access to equipment.

I was interested to see who comprised the volunteer corps because there was a wide variety of people in the Delaware Valley that unexpectedly had nothing to do. There were retired physicians, nurses, medical students (suddenly without any clinical duties), as well as people not at all involved in medicine who just wanted to help. Everyone was eager and energetic. You couldn’t tell there was a pandemic about to make its way to Philadelphia and the people that re most concerned they had an infection were driving to your current location.

The screening site was a well-oiled machine by the time I arrived in late March. Through intake, data collection, verification, swabbing, etc. it took about 8 to 10 volunteers to run one “lane” of cars. Ultimately the car completed its journey at our site in the swabbing tent where the specimen was collected. The more volunteers present, the more tents and lanes open, which greatly decreased wait time for the public to get screened—therefore enticing more people to receive testing. There were times when I volunteered and only two tents were open due to staffing issues. Additionally, I was told by the Medical Director at the site that samples were taking closer to 10 days to process, not the 5 to 7 that we had been telling the patients. Lastly, something that I found somewhat incomprehensible was that the FEMA guidelines for eligible patients to get tested did not align with those of the Philadelphia Department of Health. This lead to some people being taken out of line by FEMA representatives even though they were eligible for testing according to the Department of Health. It never occurred to me that things like this can affect an overall city’s number of cases. Closing or decreasing screening capacity as well as delays in reporting can make numbers artificially lower.

I’m trying to find silver linings to come from the pandemic. Some are that the people being screened were overwhelmingly appreciative of our efforts. Local restaurants provided free lunch and dinner to the volunteers so it very much felt like a community coming together. I was fortunate to observe the way people are supporting one another during these stressful times. Philadelphians are responding positively—for now. It may not stay like this for the entirety of the pandemic as economic and other life-changes will exacerbate the anxiety that many people are feeling. I take comfort in knowing that there is potential for a lot to change in our society as we emerge from the pandemic.

It won’t be a surprise that our lives will be markedly different in the coming months and most likely years. For the foreseeable future, society will no longer run as “business as usual” following the first wave. The way our healthcare system functions is something I’m most looking forward to seeing evolve as people realize that our employer-based model leaves millions behind and is not equipped for delivering the most care to the most people. A new awareness of what we find important in life will also develop. This may entail rethinking the significance of the local community and each person’s role. We’ll be forced into introspection – things like where we get our food, how we view work, and how we spend our free time will require reflection and evaluation – whether we like it or not.

The Zeiberg Family

Make Every Day Count