A reflection of the Mt. A student community before the pandemic
I was not aware of the train in Sackville until my third year of university. Although I knew it existed, I cannot recall a time when I heard it at night. The train first made its impact on me a year ago as it cruised through the town at 11 pm. I was just about to fall asleep in my first apartment, in my new bed, when I heard it loudly call out. I was on the cusp of sleep—the kind of sleep where you do not realize you were asleep until you are awake. The sudden outburst, frankly, annoyed me. Giving up on sleep, I rolled over to check my phone. My night was not the only one interrupted by the whistle; all my friends had something to say about it.
“Is that right outside my window?”
Everyone had mixed feelings about the train, but our conversation about it did not last long. Soon, everyone resumed their Netflix show or fell back to sleep. But I lay under the blankets as the rhythm of the whistle brought me to the past.
The pandemic sent us home from residence abruptly the semester before, and now we were forced to stay isolated in a new environment. The pandemic completely altered the energy that beamed from the Sackville and Mt. A community. Life never slowed down, and everyone was there with you. Our residence rooms were packed, the bleachers were packed, even the library was packed. Streams of students filled the rainbow sidewalks rushing to class or bouncing to Ducky’s on a Friday night. I will never forget the feeling of knowing everyone around me; I waved to people I met once in the dining hall, and I walked with my professors on the way to class.
The enthusiasm that Mt. A students held was unique to the university. It is what made these moments so memorable. Within a few weeks, all of this was robbed from our community, and it never came back. But the night I heard the train made me feel connected with my friends again—something I had not felt in a long time.
In a time when the streets are as silent during the day as they are at night, I could only hope for some noise to make me feel real again. That night, I woke up from more than my sleep. My friends are no longer sleeping down the hall or studying downstairs. But the train that rolls through Sackville every day is here, and it has been here, waking people up from their sleep for years. Its warning has turned into a song that connects me with my friends and the community we miss so much. We can only remember the echo of music across town from football or soccer games. Now, I listen for the train, and when I hear it, I know someone else hears it too.
My daughter is graduating from mtA and fears the traditions she enjoyed her first year and second year ( until March 2020) will be lost forever as those who would pass it on have never experienced it. MtA will never be the same because of Covid, and she has cried longing for the community she once knew at mtA.
Great piece. Just a reminder that we build our own community! While experiences may not be similar, we can still carve our own route. Let’s not mourn the student experience that could have been, and look forward toward the student experience that can be.