2020 In Review

2020+In+Review

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from 2020, it is the importance of our breath. This year has proven how precious our breath is, but also how catastrophic the effects are when it is taken away. Breath is a lot more than inhaling and exhaling. Breath gives us the power to speak up against unjust circumstances and escape from dangerous situations. Breath allows us to be independent human beings who are capable of having conversations with friends and family, being active, and taking risks. Really, breath lets us live our lives to the fullest. 

When COVID-19 reached America in the beginning of March, nurses and doctors worked long hours just to watch patients die as they struggled for their last breath. Since then, doctors have learned that coronavirus attacks the respiratory system, which can make the very air that is vital to us toxic to others. Lockdowns, quarantines, masks and social distancing all posed challenges to normalcy. Punahou School’s epidemiologist, Dr. Virginia Loo, stated, “During the first few weeks of the shutdown, it felt a bit surreal, since case numbers were still so low in Hawaii, but the news reports from other places made it very clear how bad it could get if people didn’t take it seriously.”

Another main event in an unprecedented year was in late May. George Floyd was killed by a police officer, prompting Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests to demand justice and an end to police brutality. Thousands of people carried banners stating George Floyd’s last words: “I can’t breathe”. The movement gained support worldwide from people of all races, ethnicities, and nationalities. Hina Ricardo ‘23 said, “I did not quite understand my privilege as an Asian-American student in Hawai’i before the BLM movement…The conversations I have had and will continue to have with my peers about our oppressive and unjust society have shed light on how fortunate we are, and how important it is for us to fight for change.” Ricardo added, “I believe that as allies, it is our responsibility to stand in solidarity with the BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and People of Color] community and amplify their voices.”

As if 2020 couldn’t get any more chaotic, in August, smoke filled the lungs of West Coast residents as wildfires ravaged the severely dry California, Oregon, and Washington State. The smoke from the fires caused skies to turn an eerie red-orange color throughout the affected areas. The New York Times reported, “Resources have been stretched thin, as firefighters from Washington and Oregon that had been deployed to California were sent home to fight blazes in their own backyards. As California continued to burn, with more than three million acres scorched, a record in modern history, fire crews were being rushed in from Utah, Colorado and Texas.” 

In addition to the pandemic, 2020 brought a presidential election. In November, millions of Americans held their breath as they waited on the results. In “a battle for the soul of the nation”, records were broken: Biden earned more votes than any other presidential candidate, about 80 million or 51.4%, according to the Associated Press. In addition, Kamala Harris became the first Black and Asian American female vice president-elect in the history of the United States. 

More than once over the course of the year, our breath has come out as sobs when we hear the news of someone’s passing. Thousands of Americans have lost friends and family members to coronavirus. In addition, many quintessential American icons, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Alex Trebek, Chadwick Boseman, John Lewis, and many others, passed away this year. 

Many people will breathe a sigh of relief as the calendar turns to a new year. Nathan Ewing ‘24 said, “I think this year as a whole challenged people to adapt and accept change.” Jon Koshiba, a dean for the Class of 2024, agreed, “One positive that has come out of the pandemic is the strength of the community at Punahou. So many people have stepped up in different ways to keep school safe and open for students, and it has been amazing to see.” After a year filled with highs and lows, let’s take a deep breath and reset for 2021.