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Photo captures the struggle and resolve of high school seniors during COVID-19 crisis

"We were the first kids born after 9/11," said Jacob Lopez. "And our senior year is getting put on hold because of the coronavirus."

DALLAS — A unique high school portrait in Conroe, Texas captures the coronavirus crisis graduating senior's face. But the student in the photo, and others in North Texas, also see the photo as a promise to do their part to help minimize the damage of this moment in history. 

The pictured graduating senior is Taylor Hollin. In the photo, taken in front of Oak Ridge High School in Conroe ISD, which is closed through at least April 10, the 17-year-old is in wears a cap, gown and a protective mask. She is surrounded by school books, rolls of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and some of her favorite junk food. She's also seated next to a sign that reads, "From day one history has been made. Class of 2020."

"I meant it as more of a time capsule," said photographer Jessica Arnold of 3 Pretty Girls Photography.

As a time capsule it shows that teenagers, like Hollin, the first children born after the attacks of September 11, 2001, are ending high school in limbo with another life-changing event. 

"Yeah, it's a really cool picture and it's kind of funny. But at the same time, it definitely affects people," Hollin said.

"I just wanted to catch a moment in her time that I know is difficult right now, and everybody can just see what's going on," Arnold said.

And from one Oak Ridge High School to another, the Oakridge School in Arlington, high school seniors agreed to share their opinion of that photo.

"They're just trying to make it known how we are also being affected by this too," said 18-year-old Anthony Leland, a graduating senior who began online versions of classes this week. 

Distance learning began Monday and is scheduled to last at least through April 3 at the Arlington private school. 

Graduation ceremonies, as they are at most other North Texas schools and universities, while not canceled are not guaranteed. 

"We were the first kids born after 9/11," said Oakridge senior Jacob Lopez. "We came into kindergarten during the 2008 recession. And our senior year is getting put on hold because of coronavirus."

"School isn't just learning, it's talking to people and you're around people all the time," said Oakridge senior Annemarie Roos. "So now, the huge lack of human interaction is kind of scary." 

But in the photo, they also see perspective. Yes, they are sheltering in place and attending classes only on computer. Yes, their graduation ceremony is not guaranteed. But they also say they realize that generations that came before them, like the high-schoolers who fought in World War II and Vietnam for example, had their young lives put on hold too.

"It matters in the moment. But then you have to think about the lives that are going to be lost without it. And you can't be selfish about it," Lopez said of the shelter in place and other restrictions meant to slow the spread of COVID-19. "We're taking these measures so people don't die." 

"I feel like everything that has happened has been necessary and I think it's just going to take longer for some people to understand that," added Leland

"I know that I'm going to go to college. It's going to be OK. It will blow over," added Roos. "We just don't have the answers yet."

So, a photograph meant to capture a single unusual and difficult moment for today's high school seniors also shows the sacrifices a new generation is willing to endure to help us all survive this moment in history too. 

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