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Class of 2020: The class of COVID-19

If you’re a high school senior, you likely watched this movie as a little kid.

“Back to the Future.”

Your dad surely has it on ancient DVD. Heck, he probably still watches it.

Since you’ve watched it with him enough times, you know how the movie works.

You know its payoff.


That’s where Marty McFly gets his future-parents together while (unintentionally) swiping Chuck Berry’s intellectual propery in the process.

Everybody wins, except Chuck, maybe.

The hapless Marty gets to wail on the guitar at a real gig while his equally hapless dad-to-be gets the girl, who is Marty’s mom-to-be, thus saving his existence.

And it all happened at prom, the social, transformative event of high school.

If you’re of the generation that still watches the above movie on DVD, you likely can’t remember the name of the kid you sat next to in homeroom.

Prom, though, you’ll probably conjure in cinematic detail, end-credits included.

Webcam corsage

Two weeks ago, Kerrigan Hawthorne and her friends got done out in their gowns for a Zoom prom.

Zoom is teleconferencing technology not predicted in the sequel.

Was the back-to-the-pandemic version of her prom sad?

The Preston High senior didn’t waste time answering.

“Not really. It was actually kind of nice.”

They weren’t scrunched together at tables, in some rented hall, making fun of the DJ’s makeshift light show.

They weren’t pulling out their phones to re-loop the TikTok promposal while coaxing their dates on the dance floor (and not just during the slow songs).

They weren’t stylishly planted at the chain restaurant for an order of appetizers made to smirch up a $600 dress and a rented tux that really needed to be returned in (sort of) pristine condition.

What they were doing was being together, with technology.

Just one more blip in the new-normal algorithm, said Hawthorne, who will be a freshman in communication sciences and disorders this fall at WVU.

“At first we might have been thinking, ‘Aw, man, no prom,’ ” she said.

As a well-dressed rite of passage for high school, the idea of no prom walks on big, dyed shoes, in pandemic context.

Prom wasn’t the only thing the coronavirus kicked in the corner.

For this story, The Dominion Post asked high school seniors across the region to submit photographs of themselves in promwear, which many did.

Their thoughts went past prom.

Because the Class of 2020 is now the Class of COVID-19.

Looking past it

Americus Bunnell, a senior at Morgantown High, said it’s time to move on, even though she enjoyed her classes and classmates up to the time everyone was sent home.

“I am still a little bit sad about prom,” she said. “I miss my friends, but I’m looking forward to what’s coming.”

She’ll continue additional studies at the Monongalia County Technical Education Center, while she mulls plans to either enroll in college or join the work force.

Making it actual

Logan Summerlin, meanwhile, is thinking about the gown she’ll wear this Friday on the football field at Trinity Christian School.

She’ll join her 12 fellow seniors for an abbreviated ceremony.

After that, it’s on to Fairmont State University, where she’ll major in Criminolgy and minor in National Security and Intelligence.

“Security,” is a good pandemic word, she said, which is why she won’t mind all the stipulations and caveats for graduation.

Maintaining a 6-foot gap is easy, she said, once you get used to it.

“It doesn’t change the fact that we’ll still be together,” she said.

Virtual (very)

Emma Kitzmiller plans on taking her place on the University High football field June 25 so she can go forth with her class.

She shares the same WVU major with Hawthorne, and she feels communication pathways and delivery systems will be forever changed in our post-pandemic lives and times.

“It’s been a unique spring,” she said, “and now we’ve got all these possibilities and different ways of doing things.”

And prom? She and her friends have virtual plans later.

No ‘I’ in team — but a capital one in ‘COVID’

Levi Carrico joked that he was going to prom to make his girlfriend happy.

There’s no levity for Levi, though, when he considers what COVID-19 did to spring sports across the county.

The Clay-Battelle football and basketball standout was All-Conference in the former and regularly put up double digits as a shooting guard for the latter.

He feels bad for his student-athlete buddies across the region whom he knew would have shone in track and field —were it not for the coronavirus.

“Yeah, that was tough,” he said.

He expects it to be tough at WVU, where he’ll major in exercise physiology, so he can stay in athletics.

If he could go back to the future at the school on the western end of Mon, he would.

The only thing he would change would be the pandemic.

“At Clay-Battelle, everybody is there for you.”

Time machine

Besides, Hawthorne said, at the reunion 10 years from now, people can talk about Zoom proms and quarantine lessons learned.

“It’s been a weird year of adjustment, but we got through it,” she said.

“We did it, and we’ll have some stories to tell.”

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