March 9, 2021, Dayton, OH. On the evening news in Dayton it was mentioned that the first confirmed Ohio case of COVID-19 occurred on March 10, 2020. What a year it has been for all of us! That includes everyone reading this! In the few weeks just before that date while scanning through Facebook, watching the evening news, and browsing the internet, it seemed like a giant storm was building in the West much as an afternoon summer storm does in southwestern Ohio…and then it suddenly hit!
Some weeks ago Communications, Advancement, and Alumni Relations were on a Google Meet (and also of course sometimes Zoom like many do) as much of the world seems to be doing these days. Folks normally bang their heads together and try to figure out how best to keep the College strong and keep everyone “in-the-know,” but for at least a good part of that particular Google Meet, everybody had to vent and talk out feelings about what they remembered they were doing as the pandemic rolled in. Trying to remember the old “crazy” normal! Some were still traveling by plane and then having lunch with alums to update them on what was going on. Airplanes, lunch dates, real meetings with people! Alumni chapter meetings in person. Things we took for granted and now miss. This Buffalo was still working at the OK Library and enjoying the company of new Antiochians, especially in the evening after most of the adults departed.
Soon after the first case of COVID arrived, winds of change blew through Ohio like the straight-line winds of a ferocious late-afternoon July thunderstorm on a hot day. As a commuter heading home on the 35-minute drive to northwest Dayton, it was unusually strange to hear case and hospitalization numbers, small at first, and things one had never heard on a radio station that mostly played a heavy rotation of oldie R&B music with only occasional tidbits of local news.
At the Library, the first rumblings of that storm arrived around the time of finals week for Winter 2020 term. I felt we needed a moment of joy before that storm really started to rage. The Saturday of that week, the OK Library had bonus hours for finals week. And it was serendipitously a fun day that some nerdish people enjoy (Like John Sims, Antioch math/artist) and myself. It was 3.14 or Pi Day (March 14). I made my way to a place in Dayton known for its fabulous pies and bought a number of apple crumb and cherry pies. I think that everyone could sense things were starting to tighten up. On the way into the pie shop, the owner imperiously said, “President Trump is speaking later today!” I really only had interest in making finals week sweeter, not very interested in THAT President at that moment. And maybe very anxious! With consideration for safety, Library finals Pi Day was set up for grab-and-go with separate utensils and the like. By the end of the day, it was clear that apple crumb was the winner (yes, even Antiochians like, and sometimes are, as American as apple pie), and for a couple of days, I was eating much leftover cherry pie at intervals. As some got a piece of pie, they also let out a piece of their feelings whether it was about finishing up or the ominousness that seemed to be on the horizon.
The following week, the Library became somewhat of a “speakeasy.” The door was locked and students had to knock to get in. To make it fun I asked for a password. Often it was, “Be ashamed before you win a victory for humanity,” “Horace sent me,” “Computer,” “Get my mail,” and then a few may have said some pejoratives. I should have had a potty mouth jar for them! No matter what they said, the password was deemed to be right and they were let in, locked in, and then locked out and in-between much wiping. Everything was so unsettling. We were just starting to figure the new world out.
Then came more stories. Students were unsure about even going home. When news started coming in that NYC was becoming a hot zone, at least one student went to the bus station, broke down into tears, turned around, and then decided to go to another student’s parents house in Texas where they thought they would be more safe. Others did indeed go on Co-op. Spring was totally online, and by fall, the College went to a hybrid model with strict health protocols and managed to stay about as safe as could be.
Antioch students and faculty were flexible enough to adapt to a community that had to endure constant social distance and hybrid models. Who could imagine that a relatively smaller enrollment on a big campus would be a momentary saving grace? Now one March and one Pi Day, later snowdrops and aconites are starting to appear and a universe of wildflowers are waiting “in line” to bloom. It appears also that people are still deftly and bravely squeezing in Co-ops and travel.
For some, Commencement is coming. Vespere Oaks ’22, a former Library worker, managed to have an international Antioch Pandemic Adventure by going to Thailand! As his Commencement is in view he says, “My Antioch College experience has been filled with miracles and tragedies. Without the compassion of individuals like Professors Cary Campbell and Lara Mitias, the Library staff, and a few others, my life here would have been hell. Antioch has provided me with the opportunity to interact with Thai and Laotian monks, as well as understand what it means to be honest and truthful with myself. I have grown here and will be forever indebted to those who helped me grow.”
For those whose Commencement are years away, there are still Co-op adventures. Someone from the class of 2023 will be doing an ecology practicum with the University of Notre Dame Ecological Research Center East on the Wisconsin-Michigan border. Different students from 2024 will be an Environmental Steward at Whiterock Conservancy in Iowa, a health and wellness assistant at Kokolulu Farm and Cancer Retreat in Hawaii, a Miller Fellow at the local Tecumseh Land Trust, and students from 2022 and 2024 will be working on a documentary film about the the Ant Farm Antioch Art Building Preservation project. It is clear that even during these uncertain times, Antiochians on Co-op are saving the planet, people, and preserving the Antioch filmmaking legacy–even our own history. These are just some tidbits. Co-ops are continuing to solidify. Thank you Beth Bridgman and Luisa Bieri for providing news tidbits on such short notice!
As a quick aside, Community Meeting today was a hybrid moment. The first half was a Google Meet sort of thing but as spring fever was creeping in pretty hard; the second half took place outside near the Antioch Farm. They had treats served socially distanced. For some of us in different locations, we didn’t quite make it virtually to the Farm. But maybe by next year by Pi Day we will be able to have a piece of pie in a way similar prior to the pandemic. I would love another piece of that pie…but I hope it to be apple rather than leftover cherry.
And speaking of Marches, please don’t forget the Million Dollar March Match. It is the best March Madness there is! Every dollar one might donate will be matched and will make the newest Antiochians have a smoother ride, whether it is to Iowa, Thailand, Hawaii, or even in the Yellow Springs area.
And one almost tiny tiny detail… that R&B Radio Station I listened to while commuting and with which an elder like me resonates is WROU 92.1, which was pretty much the vision of Ro Nita Hawes-Saunders, a local power player in the Dayton Area and also a very important part of the Presidential Search. To all much love and maybe some Pi or Pie. If not this 3.14, maybe the next 3.14!
“A Buffalo Grazing” is a regular feature by alum Steven Duffy ’77, known to many as the Buffalo or simply Duffy.