by JESS KIRBY
On the evening of March 15, four speakers and performers sat six feet apart on a dimly-lit stage, and five candles glowed in front of a podium. As just over 100 people watched live, the university held a nine-minute long “Moment of Remembrance” for the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic reaching the United States and UMW students being sent home.
University President Troy Paino and SGA President Kyree Ford, a senior sociology major, echoed both messages of grief and hope for the future.
“At its core, grief is a reaction to a change that we didn’t want or ask for,” said Paino. “This moment of remembrance is not only an acknowledgment of all that has been lost this year, but it is also an acknowledgment that your pain matters. It matters to me. It matters to us.”
Ford also recognized the enormous hardships faced by the UMW community over the past year.
“One year ago, we did not understand the magnitude that COVID-19 would bring, nor how it would affect our day-to-day life,” he said. “Somehow, we made it. Though we might not be one hundred percent there yet, we can now begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Ford continued by looking at UMW’s accomplishments from the past year.
“Together, with the implementation of MMDC, we were able to have a great fall semester, and we’re doing pretty well this spring semester,” he said. “We have lobbied for the voices of students to be heard, we also fought on the front lines [against] racial injustice, and we did that together as a Mary Washington community. We as a university have been tested, but not defeated. I truly believe that now our hardships that we face will lead to a more prosperous future.”
Junior English major James Pryor followed Ford’s message by reciting a hopeful poem called “Recovery.”
“Outside the university gates, there are small blue flowers, microscopic and lost in the grass. They were here last year, and they’ll be here next year, too. Nature’s recovery from winter never seems possible… but even now there’s news of cherry blossoms from D.C., and they’ll bloom next year, too.”
Pryor continued, “To separate humans from nature ignores the fact that we exist within the other. We’re waiting for the leaves to grow back and decorate the trees, as they will the next year and the year after that, and we’ll be there, too.”
Dressed in all black, freshman violinist Kelsey Payne closed the event by playing Bach’s “Sarabande” from Partita no. 2 in D minor.
“Amid our grief, we also need to reflect on our hope for the future,” said Paino. “In the meantime, let us join together as a community and walk into our grief by acknowledging all that we have lost this past year. In so doing, we strengthen the bonds that hold us together and walk into the future with greater strength.”