By Jared Barna
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
The car was packed; the family was all loaded up and ready to go. We had woken up early that morning to get a jump start in an attempt to bypass the inevitable Harrisburg traffic. As the car went zipping down the highway, my mind was filled with thoughts of the move-in day ahead.
Then you start to see it. The battlefield and town begin to come into view and of course looming above you can just make out the towers of campus. Glatfelter, the chapel, and if you watch carefully, for a split second, the flagpole of Pennsylvania Hall can be seen over the hillside. The nervousness I had felt the whole car ride of course ramps up a notch. You can feel it in your stomach that this place you have heard so much about and have prepared for will soon become your world. Where you will live, where you will work, where you will laugh and cry. You will meet so many new and amazing people; some will stay, some will go. You know the place you are just entering has a history that long precedes your arrival. The canon on the corner reminds you of that. But what you don’t know is how this place will make your history.
How could anyone ever anticipate how much history they will make at this place? Ahead of you are four years of jobs, clubs, internships, and classes; four years of learning and growing in preparation for the rest of your life. Then of course you have friends, sports, roommates, and traditions that fill up every other available space in your schedule.
You are eager to get started as the car pulls to a stop outside of the CUB for you to pick up your access card and your very first set of room keys, which you will use to unlock all the college has to offer.
Then the car door closes. All your stuff has been hurriedly packed and thrown into the car ready to leave one day in early March. But how? How could it all be over so fast?
Just yesterday you were a sophomore, living it up on Muss beach, throwing frisbee or chatting with friends on a blanket while the Spring sun warmed your face. Or you were a Junior going to Snowball and dancing the night away, building a snowman or lying on your back making snow angels when for that brief moment the campus was covered in white.
I remember the first time Regina said my name and how excited it made me. I remember my very first class, sitting nervously in McKnight waiting for my required language course to begin. I remember the first time I saw the holiday season come to Gettysburg, walking around campus and the town decked with lights and decorations. I remember Servo Thanksgiving and the food and laughter that every meal with friends brought. I remember Bullet hole, the real one, then new bullet, and now new new bullet. I even remember getting to use Servo trays for my first visit to the college.
Then for a brief moment we were there, senior year! The top of the pinnacle, the last year to enjoy “the best years of our lives.” And now, where are we? Where did it go? We are still Gettysburg College students, but this is not where we wanted to be…How did we get here?
Do you remember?
Do you remember your first-year walk? You walked out in the cold all bundled up with the rest of your class, the way lit by flashlights and friends who waved and cheered you on. Do you remember your floor meetings? After the longest Monday of classes you will ever have starting at 8 am, you are forced to climb the never ending stairwell of Weidensall to the fourth floor to see your RA’s and other floormates. Then they expected you to actually talk about your feelings and how things were going! Insanity!! Do you remember walking up the steps of Penn Hall with that pin right over your heart with those two simple numbers on it, 20. Those two numbers flying on that flag over the archway meant so little then, just a date in the future that you would look forward to. What do they mean now?
Like Frodo, I wish that this had not happened in our time. I wish it had never happened in any time. Nevertheless, in these strange days, long after the shutting of our many car doors and the long trips home, we are still here. The memories are still here with us. So I ask you, do you remember?
Do you remember your first time driving to Gettysburg to start the next four years of your life? Seeing campus looming ever closer in the distance and realizing, nothing would ever be the same again. Just like Frodo, you didn’t know how and could never imagine where the journey could take you. All you knew for sure was that it would be a great adventure.
This piece is part of a series of invited essays by members of the graduating senior class in which they reflect on their time at Gettysburg College.