Commentary: When the trip of a lifetime begins to feel like a nightmare

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Ali Juell

An extraordinary trip quickly changed moods as unexpected events occurred during this frightening time.

Ali Juell, Staff Writer

New York City.

A place brimming with opportunity and excitement at every corner you turn.

The glitz of Broadway and the glowing billboards of Time Square.

So much to see! So much to do!

When I landed in JFK airport with the Granite Bay High band, I was ready to see a city I had always dreamed of visiting.

I was not ready for what would be the closing memories of that trip.

I did have a wonderful time, if you were wondering.

We all felt so lucky that we were barely able to go, that we missed having our trip cancelled by a matter of days.

While it was fun, we were constantly reminded of the virus that was beginning its descent into the psyche of every person on the globe.

We would see people wearing masks on our way to Grand Central Station, to the Top of the Rock, to Times Square…

They were everywhere.

You must think this story is about how a couple of paper face masks ruined my trip to New York.

Maybe, you’re thinking that this story is about how I forgot to put on hand sanitizer after touching one of the rails leading to the subway.

If that’s the case, you’re wrong.

Just let me set the stage, I promise it gets more interesting.

The masks did not incite fear in me or my friends, but they acted as a reminder of that small possibility.

That maybe one of us could get…

Anyways, as we were enjoying our time in New York, we heard about how our school was breaking down.

No more eating in the cafeteria.

No more going to the library.

No more SAT or Junior Prom or Powder Puff or Grizz Time.

I may have been seeing people wearing masks daily, but I felt like I was safer on the other side of the country than in my own town.

I may have been seeing people wearing masks daily, but I felt like I was safer on the other side of the country than in my own town.”

— Ali Juell

That doesn’t mean that the chaperones and the band director weren’t being careful or reminding us to wash our hands.

I just felt like I was escaping any worries that the virus could have brought.

When I had friends back at home ask me if we were going to be able to return, I laughed at how paranoid they were.

There was not even a shadow of a doubt in my mind that we would get to go home.

That was until the last night of our trip.

One of my friends had felt under the weather for a day or two. 

Scratchy throat, fatigue, dizziness…

We joked that she must have Corona, being the absolutely hilarious teenagers that we are.

We were beginning to pack up our suitcases for the trip home and saying goodbye to a city that we didn’t really want to leave.

In the midst of cleaning up the room that had been our home for five days, my friend checked her temperature with the thermometer her parents had packed for her, just in case.

She read a 101.4 degree fever.

We checked her just a couple of minutes later and it zipped to 101.9 just like that.

That maybe one of us could get…

I called our chaperone because we just didn’t know what to do.

She said we may have to leave the room.

Just in case it was…

She said she would call me back soon to let us know.

While we waited, we did all that we could to tend to our friend.

We put ice on her forehead, we made sure she was comfortable.

I got the call saying that she would get the room to herself for the night, that the rest of us had to pack up our things and change rooms.

It made the jokes not funny any more.

We jostled our way out of the room with our bulky suitcases as we told her that we loved her, that there was nothing to worry about, that everything would be okay.

I felt like if I said it enough times it would become true.

Once we got to our new room, we were pretty quiet.

It was pretty clear what was on all of our minds.

We texted our friend to make sure that she was okay.

She was doing okay, but the band would be quarantined in New York.

That’s what she had been told and she was so sorry that this was happening because of her.

Just an hour ago I had wished that I didn’t have to get on the plane home.

Be careful what you wish for.

We were all in shock.

There’s no way.

As it sunk in that I’d have to spend fourteen more days in New York, I didn’t feel like I was in the concrete jungle anymore.

I felt like I was in a prison.

I started to cry as I imagined being trapped on the other side of the country for two weeks without my family.

I needed my Mom to hug me, I needed my dad to tell me everything would be okay.

They couldn’t do that though, not really.

It’s hard to comfort your daughter when she’s three thousand miles away.

In an effort to numb myself to the fears that began to drown me, I went on social media.

I scrolled past jokes about Coronavirus.

I just couldn’t look at those when it felt like the virus was finally real.

Not just a joke or an abstract fear but a tangible Boogey man that I could reach out and touch if I dared to.

I fell asleep around three in the morning, when my fear just couldn’t beat out my exhaustion any longer.

I woke up the next morning bracing for the announcement.

We would all be stuck in New York.

It never came.

We were all able to fly home together as if there was no issue, except for my friend.

She flew home on a separate flight with her parents and arrived home hours before we did.

Plenty of precaution was taken; the adults handled everything just as they should’ve.

I just don’t see a need to bore you with the details.

I wrote this to express the fear that I felt because of the possibilities that seemed definite at the time, not to make anybody out as a villain for the way the situation was handled.

My friend has since gotten better and did not have Coronavirus, as nobody else in the band, to my knowledge, got sick.

She was always thinking of everyone else throughout the whole process and I admire her so much for her selflessness.

I’m ashamed to admit that I did not cry my tears over the stress my friend was going through but because I didn’t want to be stuck.

No one’s trip was ruined by that last night, we all still muse about how great New York was.

It was just unfortunate that such a wonderful trip had to end on such a sour note.

I know some of you will believe that I’m just being over dramatic about a situation where I was just incredibly paranoid.

Maybe I am.

All I know is that I will never forget the feeling of being trapped in New York City.

Even if it was just for one night.