Surely, by now, we’ve all seen the symptoms of the coronavirus. Fever, shortness of breath, a dry cough, among others. They’re confusing. They sound like a lot of other common ailments.

But the one symptom no disease specialist could have warned us about was the heartbreak.

In the great grand scheme of things, canceling an entire spring’s worth of events seems trivial, especially when considering the long-term benefit — namely, slowing the spread of COVID-19. Trying to fight off a pandemic certainly is far more important than a few ball games and other events.

Trivial, except for the youngsters involved.

I’ll start with the ones hitting closest to home. Our Angelina College men’s basketball team recently won the conference tournament, qualifying for the national tournament for the first time in 22 years. I was there for the net-cutting, and I couldn’t have been prouder of the players and coaches. I was looking forward to my first trip to that specific tournament.

Our AC softball and baseball teams were in full spring swing. I was anxious to get outside with the kids and watch them compete, and maybe celebrate their own trips to national tournaments.

No more. The basketball tournament was canceled, along with the rest of the spring sports. Some of those kids may not get another opportunity like this, even with the adjustments offered in eligibility.

There are the students who perform in numerous campus events. They’ve worked all year toward their big performances, and now those shows won’t go on. They’ll have to dance and sing from home.

Yes, it’s breaking my heart. I can’t even imagine how those young people feel.

Then there are those high school students, especially the seniors. Lord, how I hurt for them. I’ve watched so many of these players since they were freshmen, or even younger. There are teams in our area that had a real shot at competing for a state championship this year — teams I chased through last year’s playoffs, with kids who worked their tails off in the off-season preparing for the opportunity to get sized for their rings. I interviewed many of them earlier this year when they signed letters of intent to play at the next level. Every one of them spoke of going out with a bang.

Not all the kids I’ve followed will play at another level. They entered their senior seasons knowing this would be their last one as a participant in an organized sport. They were fine with it. They, too, were looking forward to ending their high school careers on high notes. They were looking forward to their respective Senior Nights, when the schools would recognize the players and their families publicly.

Then, as with a single cough, everything blew away.

Everything. Not just sports. Every other extracurricular activity, as well. Theater kids. Kids who have raised livestock for showing at the local fairs.

Prom? Gone.

It’s so bad, no one is even sure if schools will be allowed to hold graduation ceremonies. As old as I am, I still remember how excited I was for the chance to walk across the stage with my family present and receive my hard-earned diploma and to celebrate with my classmates. I can’t fathom how those who may not have the same ceremony feel right now.

To me, it’s like getting to the end of a great book — only to discover someone has ripped out the final few pages.

We older folks have already learned life just ain’t fair. We’ve all got our stories we could share if asked.

I’d ask you to keep the stories to yourself. Now isn’t the time to minimize what these kids are losing. They haven’t experienced what we have, so to so many of them, this really is the worst thing that’s ever happened to them. It’s a doozy for sure.

Try to remember being their age. Try to remember those things we took for granted. The games, the proms, the performances, the graduations. We didn’t lose those, so we really can’t relate. If possible, put yourselves in their places. Think of how you’d have felt if this had happened to you. See it all from their perspective, and save the “You ain’t seen hard times” lectures for later.

As for you youngsters, please believe me when I tell you there are plenty of us hurting right along with you. You didn’t do anything to deserve this. We, too, feel cheated out of seeing you celebrate those goals you set so long ago.

All I can offer is this: I sincerely hope nothing worse ever happens to you. This is a mighty big heartache now, but if this turns out to be the biggest one you’ll ever suffer, maybe you’ll eventually feel thankful. I pray five, 10 years from now you’ll be able to look back with a laugh and a shake of your head. “Yeah, it sucked, but life’s still pretty great.”

They’ve issued a lot of warnings regarding this outbreak.

I just wish someone would have warned me about all these broken hearts. Mine included.

Gary Stallard is a regular contributor to the Opinion page of The Lufkin Daily News. His email address is

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