2020: Reflection and Adaptation

Looking back, 2020 was quite possibly one of the most memorable years in a very long time. We faced a global pandemic, where people were unable to leave their homes for months. Wildfires and natural disasters raged through entire countries. The deaths of national icons shocked the world. Racial movements swept the nation after the death of George Floyd, causing protests and riots in every corner of the United States. On top of that, it all occurred during an election year. It is safe to say that 2020 was an overwhelming year for many. Everyone has distinct recollections of this year, and Cape Henry students are no exception to those who hold strong memories and feelings towards 2020. Fellow members of our community were interviewed to obtain just a few viewpoints regarding the past 12 months. A quiz was created to incorporate the most newsworthy elements of 2020, including the COVID pandemic and the race between President Donald Trump and his competitor Joe Biden in the election of 2020. The interviewees all took this quiz as a means of seeing how much they remembered specific events that occurred. After their score was collected, specific questions were asked to gather their opinions on the engaging year. 

Without question, the paramount highlight of the past year was the coronavirus pandemic that affected nearly the entire planet. A virus was discovered in the city of Wuhan, China, where it rapidly spread and wreaked havoc on peoples’ immune systems. Considered an epidemic at this point, the mysterious virus was reported to the World Health Organization on December 31, 2019. After quickly expanding through several more countries, the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a global emergency on January 30, 2020. By then, word had gotten around about a bizarre, spreading virus that had already claimed the lives of several people. Despite efforts from America to keep the country safe, the first recorded coronavirus case was detected in Washington around February. 2020 was already off to a bad start, but it would only get worse. By mid-March, all 50 states, Washington D.C. and four US territories had confirmed cases of COVID. This prompted a national shutdown, where people had to quarantine in their homes for months. When we could finally go outside, we were only allowed to do so with a mask that protected the nose and mouth. Everything was closed. Schools were shut down. All forms of sports were canceled. As the months passed, thousands of people were dying and getting sick every single day. For many, the year was ruined. Matt McGraw (‘22) stated that his “sports seasons and music rehearsals were gone. [He wishes] that people paid closer attention to the government, so we wouldn’t have to go through this.” Ben Scott (‘21) shared similar thoughts, expressing his pain through “not being able to see [his] family”, including his grandpa who was trapped in his home. It is a widely believed thought that 2020 was ruined because of COVID. The inconvenience and lack of response canceled the passions and work ethics of many.

Another momentous aspect of 2020 that continues to be a relevant issue in our nation is the ongoing racially-motivated protests that increased exponentially after the death of the African-American man George Floyd. On May 25, Floyd was arrested in Minneapolis for allegedly handling counterfeited currency. The officer that made the arrest, Derek Chauvin, then proceeded to handcuff Floyd and pin him on the ground, Chauvin’s knee pressing down on Floyd’s neck. As observers and fellow officers watched in horror, Floyd yelled that he was unable to breathe. Chauvin’s knee remained on his neck for nearly 9 minutes. Floyd was then rushed to a hospital, where he died only a few hours later. His death at the hands of a white police officer appalled millions of people across the nation, who used a hashtag known as #BlackLivesMatter as a platform to fight against racial injustice. Other atrocities, such as the death of Breonna Taylor and the near-lethal shooting of Jacob Blake, further boosted the cause of Black Lives Matter, spreading the movement to more and more people across America. Each of these incidents continued the rhetoric of African-Americans facing consequences for the ideologies of white, gun-toting citizens. Matt McGraw, a Class of 2022 graduate, feels that the movements “were not about any specific event. They were years of pent-up backlash and protest that, before 2020, didn’t have a reason to come out all at once. It makes perfect sense that the riots came in full force the way they did”. Throughout the year, the constant threat of violence between opposing sides pressured the country, which was facing some of the most intense racial movements seen in recent history. The battle continues to this day, which gives light to its continued impact on 2020.

Being an election year, 2020 created a tense competition throughout the country, not only between incumbent president Donald Trump and his opponent Joe Biden. The chaos of this past year provided plenty of opportunities for arguments against both candidates. In times of uncertainty, both Trump and Biden bashed each other in a manner that continued to polarize the Democratic and Republican parties. Obviously, COVID was at the forefront of the ongoing debates. Biden relayed the fact that Trump downplayed the severity of the virus to avoid a state of panic in the nation, which in turn allowed the rapid spread of COVID, causing unbelievably high numbers of cases and deaths. A recorded interview between the 45th President and Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward from March 19 was published in Woodward’s book Rage, where Trump was quoted saying “I wanted to always play [COVID] down. I still like playing it down because I don’t want to create a panic”. This, along with Trump’s refusal to wear a mask and his eventual diagnosis of COVID, allowed Biden to argue against the President’s lack of response to the crisis attacking the country. This mindset was shared by other members of our community, including Ben Scott (‘21). (Incorporate Ben’s quotes about the handling of COVID throughout 2020). On the other hand, Trump brought up the controversy regarding Biden’s son Hunter. According to information allegedly found on the former vice-president’s son’s laptop, Biden was able to profit off of Hunter’s business dealings in Ukraine and China. Both Biden and his business partner Devon Archer were supposedly being paid millions of dollars from a “corrupt Ukrainian oligarch for their participation on the board”, as stated in a Senate Committee on Homeland Security. Finally, the results of the election created further tension between the candidates. Because of COVID, mail-in voting was a very popular option for voters across the nation. Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over Trump was highly disputed, with the Republican president filing numerous lawsuits arguing against the results of the ‘rigged’ elections. (Conclusion about the polarizing election and the competitive nature of the candidates).

An unprecedented amount of natural disasters occurred last year, which caused unforgettable statistics which 2020 will be remembered by. The year began with a continuation of wildfires in Australia. However, the flames that arose in 2020 quickly intensified to “apocalyptic” levels, destroying millions of acres of land. Not only were the fires wreaking havoc on the country, but the smoke that was produced also proved to be even deadlier. As opposed to the 34 people that were killed in the fires, nearly 500 were killed due to smoke inhalation. In one of the worst wildfires seen in decades, nearly 80% of Australia was impacted by the disaster in some manner. However, at the same time, other communities struggled with intense fires. The state of California experienced similar situations, where a gender reveal party that got out of hand caused raging fires all across the state. Class of 2022 student Anna Ruane claimed she “forgot about the wildfires, but looking back everyone was so freaked out about them”. The Taal volcano eruption that occurred in the Philippines was also a disastrous event, claiming the lives of many. The number of hurricanes that occurred in America was nearly unheard of. There were so many that the World Meteorological Organization had to use a Greek naming system to follow the alphabet. All in all, 2020 was the year of natural disasters, many of which wreaked havoc on the world and caused devastating effects that continue to this day.

One final highlight of the past year was the impact COVID had on professional sports. For many, sports are not just an outlet of entertainment, but a source of expression and passion. When the pandemic came around to America, nearly every single major sports organization, including the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL, had to postpone or cancel their seasons altogether. This caused many people to lose hope. Without such an important source of vivacity within the nation, what would be news to talk about? However, slowly but surely, sports began to make their return. Many stadiums held games without fans, in order to maintain adequate space and lack of contact. Teams were required to practice safety protocols in order to ensure a safe, efficient season where they could continue to follow their careers. As the hope that was originally lost began to return, this event was seen by many as the turning point of 2020. Whereas before when people had nothing to look forward to, playoff and championship runs came back, thus once more providing a source of entertainment for millions of fans all over the world.

2020 will undoubtedly live in infamy for years to come. The sentiment of confusion and hate was shared by millions of people across the world, including students at Cape Henry. The interviews conducted accurately reflected the viewpoints of 2020, which included disgust regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the anger of not being able to see friends or family members. Racial riots sweeping the nation put America in a further state of chaos, which seemed to take away any glimmer of hope left in the desolate year. However, as 2020 came to a close, people began to reflect. After months of constant adaptation, people began to see that they were able to grow over the course of 12 months. While it is obvious that 2020 was a poor year for many, there were also people who were able to make the most of the year, and thus overcome the constant obstacles of 2020.