Dear Coronavirus… Student essays from Zion Baptist Church in Petersburg, Virginia

In March 2020 it was announced in Petersburg that schools would be closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.   That equated to 6 months of children being thrust into a world they have never been in before.   The places they went, the things they used to do, the friends they once had, and their education, were all put on hold.

At Zion Baptist Church, the first lady, Deborah Shannon was concerned.  So was another member of the church, Councilwoman Treska Wilson-Smith.  Both ladies addressed the issues from a professional view but most of all from a ‘Mother’s Perspective’.   They looked at ways to help their babies…and yes, they felt that they were their babies.  Because of the Coronavirus, they could not meet with one another to discuss so they just did what the old Moms used to do, they addressed it over the phone. They spoke and settled on an idea. Councilwoman Treska Wilson-Smith, already had an idea that she was going to share with the local newspaper.  The idea was an essay contest for all of the children in the city…….then after thinking it through, it appeared to be a bit much with that many children, so she told the first lady about it and  Eurgentine Jackson- Simmons, an Exceptional Education Teacher from Chesterfield Public Schools and then all three brainstormed on the phone to put this in place.   We were off and running.   But what would the children write about?    Thinking again, about how the effects of the Coronavirus had simply turned their lives upside down, it was decided to be, ‘Dear Coronavirus” …   ‘This would allow the children/youth to document how they actually felt about this virus, it would allow them to truly tell how they felt.    Not only was it a good exercise in learning a writing lesson but it was a good stress buster for such trying times. Developing the rules, making registration available online, etc., all came about from Eurgentine Jackson-Simmons.     These three ladies and their babies were off to a good start in learning, in doing, in being involved and most of all in addressing their true feelings.  For one solid month, the students put pen to paper and wrote and developed their skills in thinking and processing their thoughts.

Eight students participated and they were:

  • Nyzell Crawley
  • Jaden Walker
  • Cameron Claiborne
  • Keith Melton
  • Shamia Stith
  • Clarence Claiborne Jr.
  • Tyrone Harrison Jr.
  • Shymaya Stith

Of the participants, the top winners were:

  • Jaden Walker First Place (Grades 4-5) and Overall Winner
  • Clarence Claiborne Jr. First Place (Grades 6-12)
  • Keith Melton First Place (Grades 6-12)
  • Cameron Claiborne Second Place (Grades 6-12)
  • Tyrone Harrison Third Place (Grade 6-12)

Jaden Walker

Dear Coronavirus,

The last three months of my life have been impacted by you being in this world. You are annoying and have no business being here in the first place. I am writing this letter because I have some things to say to you.

According to Siri, my apple assistant, there are 97,882 people that have died from you. Some people are causing it to get worse by not washing their hands, they don’t use hand sanitizer after touching objects that don’t belong to them and they DON’T WEAR A MASK! I read that researchers say you came from a bat, others say you came from a lab. I don’t care where you came from, you shouldn’t have come here at all, because I SAID SO!

You have done some bad things, but there are still some good things that have happened since you’ve been here. The bad ways you impacted my life was having to practice social distancing, wearing a dirty old mask, and not being able to attend school for the rest of the year. At first, I felt sad and started missing my teachers and classmates. We couldn’t see each other, but we had online learning. Another way you messed up is that I couldn’t spend time with my grandma. You took the life of someone we loved, Bishop Gerald O. Glenn. I hated hearing about all the people that are dying because of you. There are some good things that have happened since I’ve been home. I learned how to do a wheelie on my bike, rode the bike trails with my mom and dad, learned how to play Phase 10, played more videos games and learned how to shoot an airsoft gun.

The last thing I want to say to you Coronavirus, is what the bible says in 2 Chronicles 7:14. If we pray to God, seek his face, and turn from our wicked ways, he will heal our land by getting rid of you. I can’t wait for you to be gone!

Wishing You Were Gone,

Jaden L. Walker

Cameron Claiborne

Dear Coronavirus,

I am writing this letter to you as I am experiencing the effects of you!  The world has given you the nickname, COVID19 and there are some things I wish to tell you.  A few of which I am grateful for and a few that I am ungrateful for.  The thing that I am most grateful for, is the fact that we now know the world can come together as one.  People fight over petty issues, religion, race, “this is mine”, or “this is yours”.  When you think about it, we were all foolish to allow these issues to separate us.  I thank you for saving the environment.  You closed beaches, which kept humans away for a while.  This allowed space for animals and birds to roam freely and not be harmed by pollution that could have been caused by vacationers.  You proved to me that life can be lived with the bare minimum.  We don’t need the mall for unnecessary shopping.  We can cook dinner at home, no need for restaurants.  We can even watch movies at home on television, no need for Regal Cinemas.

Now, what I am not grateful for and cannot take anymore of, you weren’t supposed to be so mean.  You are cruel and deadly.  First, you cared more for the sick and elderly and not the young, but then everybody became your enemy.  The world is panicking because they fear being infected by you.  Innocent people are dying because of you and I’m never going to forgive you for that.  More than 80,000 people in the world have died from you!  In Virginia, over 30,000 people have been infected by you and about 1500 people have died.  These numbers increase every day!  What was your point for doing this?  You’re killing innocent people just because you feel like it? I don’t think that’s cool at all.  Were you mad at someone or something? Did someone or something irritate you? I really think you are doing too much.  People can’t even cough without being accused of having you. Many are afraid to even hug their loved ones or visit them while they are in the hospital, because they have been exposed to you.  I don’t think there was any cause for you to do this!

We have been in quarantine for about three months and it feels like it’s been much longer!  We can barely come out of the house peacefully because of you.  When we do, we must wear mask, use hand sanitizer and some people even wear gloves.  This is not easy because we did not have to do these things before you came into our lives.  My mom and dad are essential personnel.  They are still expected to risk their lives because they must go to work.  Every day I say a prayer for them that God will protect them from you!

As an athlete, I am devastated, because you stopped everything!  Sports events, parks and gyms have been closed.  Most of my AAU basketball season has been cancelled. You have stopped daily activities, contact, work meetings, and even school.  I thought it was okay at first to miss a few days, but when I found out it was the entire school year, I was saddened.  I miss my friends and even my teachers.  In my opinion, it’s almost like you put a huge freeze on the world!  What was your point?   This seems so unreal!

In closing, I wish and pray that you would leave soon, but I know that God has a plan!  You are going to stumble trying to climb!  Don’t be surprised when you fail!


Cameron Claiborne

Keith Melton

Dear Coronavirus,

I am writing to you, Coronavirus to let you know, I think you have made a huge impact on our lives.  Some of it is bad and some of it has been good. At first, I thought that it was like the flu and people needed to be cleaner. Then there were deaths and it got really serious. I got a little scared because of the people who wouldn’t obey the COVID-19 policy.  I began to feel scared, thinking, why people don’t have or should get a washable mask. If someone sneezes into their mask, then they would have to get another one but with a washable you can wash and reuse it. Wearing a mask was so simple to me. But as we stayed in longer your impact became greater to me. So, I want YOU to know that there are three things that have come from your being in our lives, canceling events, shutting things down and coming together more.

A lot was shut down due to YOU and some people are happy and some people are mad about these shutdowns. I’m happy because we don’t have to worry about giving my grandparents a heart attack from running all over the place for my family. I’m sad because I miss my friends and some of my teachers. I miss going to the movies with my family and the mall with friends. We now watch movies from home, thank God for the Firestick .

All of the restaurants are close and it’s kind of fun going out and exploring a lot of new places to eat. We even ate marshmallows on the fire pit and made s’mores, looking forward to grilling hot

dogs on a stick in the fire.  We should have been in one of those commercials, ha, ha. But the saddest thing is that a lot of people lost their jobs. Some families had the option to work at home, like many in my family.   It worked out nice because it allowed for them to get a lot of things done around the house. Also, a lot was cancelled, and this upset me the most, thanks to you coronavirus. Things that were most important to me were cancelled, like my wrestling tournaments.  I love to wrestle, working out with my coach and getting stronger, having the chance to win medals and ribbons. I lost that chance, because of YOU coronavirus. Even the YMCA was closed, and I went there to play basketball.

But if you CAN FIND GOOD IN SOMETHING, You, coronavirus, have brought me and my family together a lot. We have been doing things we have not done in a long time. We got a lot more done because of the free time that you CAUSED!!! I can tell you this COVID-19 from a person that lives with their grandparent. I can tell you that there is not a card game, not a Motown song or 80s song I don’t know.

So, coronavirus, I just want you to know we are fighting though, and we won’t let you take us down. We will follow every rule, every precaution, and every policy to take you down.  We will pray until we can’t pray no more, then we will keep praying because we know when we have God on our side then we’re going to be OK.


Keith Melton

Shamia Stith

Dear coronavirus ,

The coronavirus has affected my life by closing schools , clothing stores , churches , it’s also stopped me from seeing most of my friends . You can’t do anything you want to do because of the lockdown , also I can’t go to school to finish off my 8th grade year. My grades were dropping
because I didn’t understand the work on google classroom . It’s hard trying to learn through a screen , when you’re used to learning in a classroom . I’m just glad my family or friends haven’t caught anything relating to it , except my great grandmother was diagnosed with covid-19 , but thankfully she does not have any symptoms . I’m sure the virus affected lots of people’s lives . I have not been able to go anywhere , staying in the house bored .

It has done a lot of damage to me and my family . It has killed thousands of people each day , I cannot do half of the things I wanna do . We have to use google classroom to get to understand our work . Having to stay 6ft away from people , having to wear a mask everywhere you go . Not being able to see your friends in school , Not being able to see your teachers , but spending time with the people you see everyday , Not really doing school work and studying isn’t good , Not being able to have your benchmark isn’t good either . It has affected my life by having to cough and people leaves because they think I have the virus or something .

Barely going shopping , Not being able to travel and meet other family members , because all my family doesn’t live here . Not being able to touch anything because that’s a way you can catch something , Not being able to see your teachers to understand the work . Google classroom has affected my grades , they were dropping , I understand now because we can talk through zoom . It has caused a lot throughout the world , makes people do things they shouldn’t do , with the police killing black people , has done enough damage , and people not being equal with getting santizer , soap , gloves , taking everything from everybody .

shymaya .

Clarence Claiborne, Jr.

Dear Coronavirus,

First, I want to ask why?  Why did you have to come and ruin just about everyone’s life and affect people the way you have?  You even went to the extreme of killing lots of people!  You could’ve stayed away and never came near anyone!  Because of you, we were released from school for the remainder of the year.  I didn’t think about how quarantine would be when we first got out of school.  No SOL’s, no teachers, no test, getting a break, cool right?  Then I realized no school meant no driver’s license, no sport workouts, no friends, no National Honor Society induction, and I realized how boring things could be.  I know the Class of 2020 has a reason to be upset, but this is the beginning of my Junior year and I had many expectations and looked forward to major accomplishments, that just didn’t happen as I had imagined.

Because I am an athlete, the closing of basketball courts and afterschool workouts hit me the hardest!  How would I stay in shape?  Fortunately, I was able to continue through group sessions with friends.  But instead of having the luxury of an inside facility, we had to share the outdoors, with its elements, the sun, the wind and sometimes rain.  The “outside” became my new gym!  My family even thought of different things we could do during this awful time.   My dad developed workout sessions for my brother and I, and even participated in them himself.  My mom started running with a group of friends and often uses our den to do step aerobics.  We were determined to find a way to stay in shape and active during your pandemic.    I was thinking that all of this would be over soon, and then the one thing that I never thought would happen, happened. I got a call about three to four weeks ago. There would be no summer programs this summer because of YOU, so this meant I wouldn’t have a job.  This was my way source of income!  Now I need to figure something out, cutting grass was my next option.  After a conversation with my dad, he agreed to transport me and allow me to use his lawn equipment.  I’m thankful for my present customers, okay two customers (better than none).

Now when it’s time to eat, we eat!  My dad says that the best thing that has come from you is my mother having time to “really” cook.  She often fusses because we eat everything so fast and there are hardly any leftovers.  We celebrated Cinco de Mayo with shrimp quesadillas, without the margaritas, of course, and she’s even prepared a night of Chinese cuisine and made homemade egg rolls!  Some of her recipes she’s had to eliminate some of the ingredients two of, because I’ve learned that my brother is a very picky eater.  On one Sunday morning, we were surprised by brunch outside on our deck!  We’ve never done that before!  After brunch, we spray painted patio chairs and played a game of H-O-R-S-E, in our very own backyard!  We even visited a dairy farm to get ice cream. I didn’t think there were actual places like this.  The ice cream was made on site, so that was a fun experience!  Because we couldn’t go inside, we parked outside and ate it, almost like a family picnic.  Next up is strawberry picking (my mom’s idea) she was outvoted last time.

Coronavirus, even though you’ve destroyed lives, broken families and stopped the world, I’ve learned something from you!  You’ve taught me that you don’t have to a physical building to worship and serve God.  I’ve enjoyed the teleconferences and LIVE church services.  You’ve taught me how to become an entrepreneur and to use my brain to start something from scratch. Mostly, I’ve learned that spending time with the ones you love is important!  You should cherish the times you spend with family because anything can happen, at any time!

P.S.  I never would’ve thought something like this would happen.  I’ve always wanted to make history, but not necessarily be a part of it.  Sarcastically, thanks Coronavirus for including me!


Clarence Claiborne, Jr.

Tyrone Harrison Jr

Dear Coronavirus,

Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal. The coronavirus is affecting us all. Children and adults are vulnerable to getting sick, living in quarantine or possibly being separated from their families. Some kids rely on school not just for learning, but for meals also. The coronavirus outbreak, which temporarily shuttered many of my favorite places, has made me realize how much I took every day just life for granted. My closet friends, whom I used to see regularly at school, are rightfully practicing social distancing.

For us, this means only connecting through our phones. Most of my friends were seniors this year. They missed out on their prom and their commencement ceremony has been postponed due to the COVID – 19 crisis. Like most students in our situation. This is a sad feeling and a disappointment. It feels like all my hard work was in vain, that I was stripped of the opportunity to finish the tenth grade and see my friends off. To boost our morale, my friend and I exchange funny memes and play video games and talk by phone often.

During this health crisis, many young people have been portrayed as unconcerned with the severity of the moment. I am tired of hearing about the coronavirus. I am tired of the repercussions from it. Many people have died from this virus. My heart breaks and grieves for these families.

This virus has made us all just think on COVID-19 at this time how it threatens everyday health. Live every moment, just take a moment to laugh virus or no virus. I have been staying home. My mother is a type 2 diabetic. My sister Jada also has asthma. They both are considered at high risk for serious complications if they contract the coronavirus. Not only both of their illnesses, but my father was diagnosed with brain and lung cancer.

I am only 15 years old. I will be 16 on June 17. Try dealing with that. How can you. I pray every day for strength. I used to not like when people would ask me how is your dad doing? It used to make me sad, but my mom has been open and honest with me about what is going on with my dad’s illness.

With so much uncertainty going on in my life, I just cannot focus on the bad. Sometimes it is easy to become frustrated, scared and a little angry. I try to take a moment to reflect on good things. Being stuck at home I have developed serious cabin fever. I am eating way too many snacks, like chips, candy, sodas and bowls of ramen noodles

My mom let me start cooking. I have come up with some creations it has helped take my mind off COVID-19, the disease and my father’s illness. There will be a lot of trial and error as we learn to deal with the new normal. This is something that none of us were prepared for. This is too much for anybody to handle.

Stay strong for yourself. Stay strong for your family. Stay strong for your neighbor, we are all in this together. Stay strong and ask the Lord to inspire, give insight and hope to all researchers focus on developing a vaccine. Hear our cry, O God, listen to my prayer Amen.

Sincerely Yours,

Tyrone Harrison Jr