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Dear Evan Hansen’s “You Will Be Found” College Essay Winner Announced!

By Caroline Ji, 17, Brooklyn, New York
Stuyvesant High School

It’s been 81 days since I last stepped on the track. I still feel the burning sensation that lingered in my throat as I walked off lane two, clutching my bib with a sigh of relief. At last, I could put my season to rest.

When the coronavirus started making headlines, I had a nonchalant disposition; I doubted that the coronavirus would travel 7,476 miles from Wuhan to New York. So for a while, everything was normal: every day, I woke up, went to school, and came home.

Around mid-March, facets of my life I had never acknowledged had gradually become unrecognizable to me. First, it was the masks. Next, it was the subways. It didn’t truly sink in until Mayor de Blasio closed all New York City schools; the news hit too close to home.

Upon this announcement, my phone exploded with texts. “What’s happening with APs? College? What about teachers? Families?” The questions accumulated as social media groups flooded with apprehensive students caving into the anxiety that had been brooding for weeks.

I tried not to give into the hysteria by assuring myself that as long as my peers were safe, the situation would work itself out. But I, too, couldn’t suppress my uneasiness for much longer.

So I did what I always did when troubled: I laced up my sneakers and slipped out of the door. Except it felt different this time.

I was in the middle of stretching when I could no longer ignore the sheer silence of my block. The frequent chatter amongst neighbors tanning on their front porches, the honking of cars at the stoplight, the incessant stir of buzzing bees and chirping birds were gone, replaced by the invisible, yet frighteningly tangible force of the coronavirus. As I ran along my usual route, I noticed how empty the streets were except for the rare passersby shielded by face masks, how the pet shop that usually bustled with laughter was vacant and lifeless.

Growing up in New York City, the sounds of chatter, city life, and busy streets were the sounds of home, with running being a relaxing escape from it all. But this run spoke nothing of relaxation. Discomforted by the silence, I let my mind wander.

Negativity clouded my thoughts. When would I see my friends again? What about my grandparents who I visited every Saturday? What if my father, whose job depended on a stable economy, would join the growing number of laid off workers? Worse of all, what if someone I knew fell victim to the coronavirus?

Exhausted by the internal conflict occurring in my brain, I soon found myself humming “You Will Be Found,” letting the calming rhythm dictate the cadence of my strides. My mind and body became one, melting into the song and absorbing every lyric. “You Will Be Found” had always resonated with me, giving me comfort from midnight meltdowns to morning showers. But in that instant, the song resonated with me in a way it had never before.

The apprehension that initially weighed down my every stride became a little lighter. As lonely as I felt being one of the few souls roaming the streets, I thought of the frontline physicians who had courageously sacrificed their lives to serve the mass of dying patients, the produce workers who worked late nights to ensure that grocery aisles were filled, and the relief groups providing aid to those in need—the heroes, or friends as Evan describes, that carry a suffering city out of the dark and into a place of hope. Ironically, despite having to stay six feet apart at all times, a sense of kinship has risen out of this pandemic, making the silence louder, the emptiness fuller, and the strangeness more normal. Evan’s message of hope and unity reminds me that despite such trying times, I am not alone; we are not alone.

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