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March of the Titans

| Tuesday, March 7, 2023

I’m in the ACE building, and I promise I’m the least productive person here (besides the guy who’s been napping for the past hour next to a box of Girl Scout Cookies). I’m surfing through my high school newspaper archives, reminiscing about those simpler times at my alma mater, T.C. Williams High School. And, while a part of me really wanted to go to the hockey game tonight because I love hockey (boys), I’ve decided there’s no place I’d rather be than here.

Here I am, wearing my pinnacle college outfit in my college body, running on five hours of college sleep from a chaotic college weekend and I’m reflecting on my high school self. 

And of course, I’m feeling that all-too-familiar pang of emotion as I read through articles I wrote when I was 15, 16 and 17—those years before I had my driver’s license or first glass of wine or first kiss, those years before I knew I’d end up here, in the ACE building on a March day with the stress of my Italian midterm oral presentation and marketing analysis essay looming over my head (I haven’t started either). 

Here I am, feeling something like nostalgia and dissociation all at once, as I confront, for the first time in a long time, the profound space between who I am now and who I was in high school, the world I’m creating here and the world I created back home, on the cusp of adulthood. 

Has it really been two years since I graduated? And three years since COVID-19 hit on some random Friday in March? 

How long has it been since I put on my Titan tennis uniform and played number three doubles versus the West Potomac Wolverines? How long has it been since I took one of those extended bathroom breaks during Ms. Z’s class to wander the halls and chat with friends? How long has it been since I packed into our sweaty gymnasium for homecoming dances and basketball games and pep rallies?

How long has it been since I spent every business day inside that massive building on King Street, walking the halls alongside kids who couldn’t afford school lunches and kids who drove BMWs? 

These were events that shaped me, moments that would forever color my coming-of-age story, and yet I’ve never felt farther from them than I do now. And a part of me really misses it. 

Of course, I don’t miss the hallway fights and cliquey social groups—I miss the beautiful, trivial aspects like senior night festivities and poster-making or the April Fool’s edition of the school newspaper (where I’d reveal intimate details about my nonexistent love life).  

But, above all, I miss the people—the beautiful diversity, the dozens of different languages floating from classrooms in our International Academy and the pockets of different cultures and backgrounds reflected on our sports teams and in our student sections. 

In short, I miss being a Titan. 

It’s funny—the way people here talk about Notre Dame being a rite of passage is how I talk about T.C. Instead of wearing a green Notre Dame bib, I wore a “Future Titan” T-shirt. Instead of going to collegiate football games, I took trips to the T.C. planetarium with my elementary school class. Instead of watching “Rudy,” I watched “Remember the Titans.” 

Now that I’m a few years removed from my high school experience, I realize what folks in my town meant when they referred to my alma mater, one of the largest and most diverse public schools in Virginia, as “Yale or jail.” I’ve seen it first-hand: My former classmates who now go to elite schools and live in cool cities and my former classmates who struggle, commit crimes and die.

I often think about 3 members of the T.C. class of 2021 who have passed. I think about their friends and family and teachers. I think about how one day they were really accessible people you could call or text or bring up in conversation or go visit—and the next day, they were gone. 

But I looked to the members of the T.C. class of 2020 who dealt with the loss of one of their classmates just two months after graduation. I looked to them and saw that in their pain was a fierce resilience, and in that pain, we become Titans again, unified by loss and (more than that) a lot of love.

These days, whenever I’m home for breaks, I plan my runs as school gets out. I wear my old T.C. sweatshirts or my new Notre Dame gear, and I run past my high school, watching the sea of thousands of students flow into the street and the parking circle and the bus stops and bus bays. And I tell myself, “This run is for the Titans. This run is for the student journalists and the athletes and the theater kids and everyone in between.”

And today, in the ACE Building, this article is for Luis Mejia Hernandez. He was a member of the Alexandria City High School class of 2022. He was killed during a fight in front of the McDonald’s in Bradlee Shopping Center at the end of last school year. He would have graduated last June. Luis, someone in Notre Dame, Indiana is thinking of you.

Kate Casper (aka, Casper, Underdog or Jasmine) is from Northern Virginia, currently residing in Breen-Phillips Hall. She strives to be the best waste of your time. You can contact her at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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