Storms & Shutdowns & Social Distancing... Oh My!

Storms & Shutdowns & Social Distancing... Oh My!
by: Louie Pratt

5 minute read


As one of my favorite teachers, Mrs. Hoagland, once said, “when the going gets tough, the tough Railroaders get going.” This past year sure has proven that.  


August 24th, 2020 started out as a regular late summer day but it would end in despair and destruction. My small hometown of Whitehall, New York endured two back-to-back catastrophic rain storms known as “microbursts.” Businesses, basements, backyards and more were flooded and endured terrible damage.  But there was one place that had flood damage that would change my future in an instant. That place was my school. 



Last March when I first got the call that school had been cancelled for two weeks due to the Coronavirus,  I was in a state of shock. Two weeks, gone. At the time I thought we would be back soon, but that was proven false. Some people were fine with having a couple weeks off at first; I definitely was not.  But what could I do? Nobody really knew what was going to happen. 


During the first shutdown I had to read the novel The Freedom Writers in English class and one of our assignments required us to write journal entries. For two entries I wrote one titled Pre-Quarantine and another titled Mid-Quarantine.  The funny thing is, it was nowhere near the middle of quarantine. 


In my journals I stated my opinion about the first shutdown. Many times I even wrote “This is a hot mess. I hate the virus and everything it has done. It has ruined everything and continues to ruin more and more everyday.” Wow, seems I really was not a fan of it. 


May 1st, another notorious day I’ll remember, Governor Cuomo announced schools wouldn’t go back for the 2019-2020 school year. And that was it. My freshman year had to be finished online. As time went on, the school year ended, and summer began. The summer of 2020 was, in spite of everything, great! Socially-distanced barbeques and drive-by birthday parades became the new norm, it was a wonderful summer. Then… the flood. 


Back to August 24th… 


“The Flood.” If you say those two words every Whitehall resident knows what infamous flood you're talking about.  As terrible as the flood was I was one of the lucky people whose house did not suffer any damage; others were not so fortunate. Up until the second the storms started it was a crystal clear sunny day; no clouds in sight, no flood warnings, not even any talk about a storm. Nobody knew it was coming.  


We had planned for a hybrid school year, half the student body comes in-person and half stays virtual, rotating in the middle of the week. That wasn’t even possible now. Classrooms had multiple inches of water, places like the auditorium had more than a couple inches, and our gymnasium was basically destroyed.  But throughout everything that happened one thing was not destroyed... hope.


There were days where it didn't seem promising that we were going back at all but I never lost hope. I knew I would be back one day, sooner or later, and then it happened. We received our weekly email from our principal and it stated “our High School will be open for business this Monday, March 15th, 2021.” Things were finally starting to turn around. A whole year later, 369 days to be exact, the Railroaders were able to return to school. I was able to sit in a classroom again. I was able to enjoy our new and improved art rooms. I was able to sit with my friends at lunch (socially distanced of course). It felt great to be back. 



Now we’re back full time, five days a week, and I am enjoying every moment of it. I could not be more thankful for everyone who made it happen. I feel like I can finally reflect back on the year I had and finish my Post-Quarantine journal entry. 

...I was able to take dance lessons again

...I became President of our Yearbook Committee

...I became a member of the New York State SADD Student Leadership Council

...I got to spend more time with my family

...I finally found out what styles of art I enjoyed doing

...I got to put together three successful virtual spirit weeks with the help of some amazing friends 

...and most importantly I learned that positivity outweighs all


Sure, there were some bumps in the road, like having our cheer season cut short or not getting a homecoming, but I have chosen to look at the positive aspects of my year at home. 


So to those reading, especially my fellow tough Railroaders, my advice to you is stay positive and never lose hope, even when there are dark clouds in sight.  




Louie Pratt is a sophomore at Whitehall Jr. Sr. High School, in Whitehall, New York. Louie is a member of the New York Student Leadership Council and his home chapter. He enjoys being a member of SADD because he wants to put a positive impact on people's lives and the decisions they make. In his free time he enjoys dancing, cheering, shopping, and making digital art. Louie recently won a local PSA contest and had his PSA aired on a local radio which he’s super excited about. He hopes to continue doing great things with SADD in the future.


Want to get involved with NY SADD and build your leadership skills like Louie? Email Lauren, or DM @NewYorkSADD.

Written By: lmeade