It is June 2025 and I am getting ready for my high school graduation. I am graduating with honors and excelled at the top of my class in creative writing. I was bestowed the honor of delivering a speech on my take away of the Covid-19 virus that plagued the world in 2020. It is 5 years later and although it took the better part of 2 plus years until the eye of the storm subsided, we were left with a brave new world. The last five years have defined our world and my youth in ways that could never have been believed with no preparation in site. We were human shock absorbers. In guinea pig fashion we were isolated in our own boats navigating a storm flooded with fear, rage and no real answers. The virus knew no limits and left its mark on millions of innocent bystanders. We never knew if it was our turn to suffer on the front line of battle. We spent time dodging bullets, while baking blueberry pound cake with our siblings in lockdown mode. There were months on end where no expiration date was just that. As 13 year olds while forming friendships was top of mind, we were concurrently learning to fight an enemy that could come from around any corner, on any block. The streets crowded with people wearing masks was a clear visual of the enemy at hand. As lucky kids, the worst we knew was strep or a wrist sling from breaking a fall on the basketball court. Yet, we came to understand we were now dealing with deregulating the rules of the health cards as we knew them. Belly aches, scrapped knees and irritated gums from braces were mere annoyances compared to what we were up against. Fast forward and with no braces in sight, I am dressing in a new suit and sporting a tie decorated with happy faces. We survived and are thriving as a vaccine and maintenance program is in place. While overcoming an act of G-d, and a human disaster that has left us with emotional scars, I will address my graduating class today with honor. I will look in the eyes of my friends and know we developed strong friendships in spite of the scariest of times. My take away dear friends is if anyone one of us falls a little behind, we will wait till you catch up. We all started behind the starting line and emerged stronger and knowing together is “hashtag” better.