Like most Americans the week of September 11, 2001, Rachel Ramstad was closely watching the news for the latest developments in the deadly terror attacks against the United States. She was also closely watching the baby she and husband Erik had just brought into the world.
Sarah Elizabeth Ramstad was born September 13, 2001, just two days after nearly 3,000 people lost their lives at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and on a hijacked plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. It was all a little surreal for this first-time mom.
“In my hospital bed, while holding my newborn, I saw the media stating ‘innocence has died,’ Ramstad said. “I remember telling her out loud, ‘We know better.’ It wasn’t possible for me to believe in the death of innocence while holding and rocking a newborn.”
Ramstad says while she felt sorrow for the nation’s loss, “Baby Sarah” was “a treasure that required hope and optimism for the future.”
Now Sarah and all of those so-called "9/11 babies" — the babies born in the year following the worst terror attack on American soil — are high school seniors. They came into the world at a tumultuous time, now they’re wrapping up their childhood in another one.
While the scariest parts about the coronavirus pandemic certainly are the potential devastating loss of life and possible long term economic ramifications around the world, on a more personal level it’s meant the cancellation of everyday life for students. Tough for all, but probably toughest on seniors capping off their high school careers and potentially missing some milestone moments.
The pandemic has caused the postponement or cancellations of athletics, fine arts and other extracurricular activities including practices, rehearsals and tournaments. On Friday, tears fell as the North Dakota High School Activities Association suspended play of the Class A boys and girls basketball tournament, which was already in progress while also putting the Class B boys state tournament on hold.
In Minnesota, the Henning girls basketball team had just posted their first state tournament win when they got the news there would be no tournament. The Henning boys realized they would not have the chance to defend last year’s state championship.
Henning senior Blake Wallevand says he’s disappointed.
“To get so close to our goal to make, then win the state tournament — to have that ripped away from us seems unfair, but there’s nothing we can do to change the situation,” he says.
Wallevand says the seniors have also lost an opportunity to show their gratitude to those who’ve backed them all of these years.
“We don’t get to thank the community, because they’re so amazing. That’s a bummer,” he says.
Moorhead High senior Maren Twedt has most likely seen her speech season come to an end with the cancellation of their last tournament in Eagan, Minn. last weekend and uncertainty with the rest of the season’s tournaments and qualifiers.
“I’m obviously very glad we’re taking these precautions so this pandemic doesn’t go too far and that we don’t lose any lives, but I’m definitely bummed I’m missing so much of my senior year,” she said. “It’s for the best, but I worry about what this is going to look like for all of the “lasts” — graduation, prom, last day of school. We just don’t know.”
Sabrina Matejcek, a senior at Northern Cass High School agrees. “As a senior it’s considered to be our last hurrah before we end this chapter in our lives. It’s heartbreaking to think that now that might not happen,” she said.
While Matejcek knows the cancellations are for the safety of the community, she wonders if it’s all necessary.
“I just don’t think shutting everything down and causing mass panic is going to help,” she says. “The kids are taking this as a vacation. They’re still going to go to the mall, go to the movies and go hang with their friends, so the sickness is still going to spread.”
And what about "Baby Sarah", now a senior at Davies High School? She understands why things are getting cancelled, but she says it’s hard not to be a little mad about it.
“It feels unfair that this is happening to us, but it would be unfair to happen to any senior class. Of course, being healthy and looking out for others should be our top priority, but it feels like the class of 2020 is going to miss out on really special memories,” she said.
In the short term, Sarah has been choreographing a youth musical at church slated for late April. She’s not sure if that will happen or how the rest of the year will unfold.
“I'm pretty concerned. I'm concerned that prom and graduation will be canceled. I also don't know if we'll be able to have graduation parties or even go on summer vacations,” she said.
With school off, some of the seniors are still working part-time jobs, others are using the time to get photos together for graduation open houses they hope can still happen.
And many of them are worrying and wondering about the uncertain future, much the way their parents might have around 9/11 when they were first born. And at this point, it looks like they might not get an answer anytime soon.
Every school contacted by The Forum said it is simply too early to make a decision about the final two months of the 2020 school year, including things like prom and graduation, so the pandemic seniors who came of age in a newly post 9/11 world are left to live with some uncertainty. They wait, see and hope-for-the-best and try to remember that despite having parts of their senior year taken away, COVID-19 can't take away all of the memories already made.
It is okay to be disappointed. It is also okay to recognize we’ve already been rewarded for our work with the relationships we’ve built and the words we’ve crafted. We love our words. We love our team. These are championship rewards.
It is okay to be disappointed. It is also okay to recognize we’ve already been rewarded for our work with the relationships we’ve built and the words we’ve crafted. We love our words. We love our team. These are championship rewards.— Spud Speech & Debate (@spudspeech) March 13, 2020
“I trust the government, and I trust our school officials to make the right decisions about what’s best for us,” Twedt says. “Still, it’s just hard to lose some things.”