Written by Emma Aly
For the first part of the 2019-20 school year, the Student Publications office was filled with the sounds of typing, laughter and collaborative conversation as we all worked to create our two publications. Now, the office sits empty.
This is how all campus buildings are at the moment. The places once filled with the sounds of fellowship, learning and collaboration are now overwhelmingly quiet.
The Petit Jean yearbook staff began working on this year’s book in August and had just completed our last full staff deadline before spring break. We planned to share this book full of stories with the student body April 30. As they did for many others, our plans changed.
When the announcement came that we would not be returning to school this semester, the yearbook staff and I kicked into high gear, completely changing our original plan so the last group of pages could tell the story of this unusual change to our semester. We adapted the plan for the distribution and promotion of the book that we had been working on for months to still be able to share it with you.
Our theme grew to have so much more meaning as this uncertainty unfolded. The importance of this yearbook grew with it.
I am admittedly biased as editor-in-chief, but yearbooks are important to institutional and personal histories. In February, our staff began working on a video interviewing Harding alumni about the significance of their yearbooks, which will now be shared in the fall. Alumni shared stories of forgotten memories, cherished friendships and caring professors — all captured in their Petit Jeans.
Petit Jean yearbooks capture the current school year, but it is safe to say their meaning grows exponentially in the following years and decades. In an increasingly digital world, yearbooks are a physical manifestation of a specific time on the Harding campus.
Our world changes rapidly. If you look at a yearbook from 10 years ago, you will see outdated fashion, unusual trends and forgotten traditions. After this pandemic, our world will be very different. Those changes will be evident in this book. We captured the normalcy of the fall and early spring semester and the unexpected changes that came mid-semester. Future yearbooks will continue to memorialize the changes caused by COVID-19 and those that are natural to a dynamic world.
Our world is changing as it always has — now maybe just a little more drastically than normal. When we come out of this time of social distancing, I encourage you to pick up your yearbook. This book will remind you of the happy times on campus and the unprecedented changes that followed.
Maybe one day when you are old and gray, you will pull your yearbooks off your shelf. As you open them, I hope those sounds of campus life will come flooding back to you.