A New Normal By Cooper Tidwell

I’ll Keep Running

I’m a senior in college who is seeing first hand how this pandemic is affecting my peers, my family, and the community. I’m documenting my experience in my tiny two-bed apartment as history unfolds right in front of my eyes.

Once a central hub for students, Chamberlain Field is now left empty. Sunday, March 29th, 2020. (Photo by Cooper Tidwell)

Sunday, March 29, 2020 : I’ve been a runner since high school. A hobby that I’ve always thought mindlessly of has taken on a new meaning in my life. Since practicing social distancing and staying home as much as possible running has become my escape. I’m alone with my thoughts for about 35 minutes a day with no distractions, no news articles, nothing.

I ran on campus this morning. On a day like today, warm and sunny, Chamberlain Field is usually flocked with students, but today it was empty. Actually the whole campus was empty. The general lots that I’ve spent many mornings circling for a spot, and the tables outside Starbucks that seemed to make studying a little easier on a pretty day like today, all empty. It’s an eerie feeling to run through a campus that just a few weeks ago looked like a completely different world.

The scene I say today felt like I was either really early to an event, or that I was left behind in the second coming. I was waiting for someone to jump out of the bushes and tell me this was all a prank and everything can go back to normal! I’m still waiting, but in the meantime I’ll keep running like I did before this started and like I will once this is over. 

Parking lots on UTC’s campus are empty for the first time after students converted to online-based learning for the reminder of the semester. Sunday, March 29, 2020. (Photo by Cooper Tidwell)


Signs at the Aldi in Red Bank, Tennessee encourage shoppers to practice social distancing on March 24, 2020. Grocery stores remained open as other business close indefinitely. (Photo by Cooper Tidwell)

On March 13th, 2020 I turned 22 years old. A time meant for celebration, laughs, and mimosas at brunch turned into uncertainty, panic, and a grocery basket full of water, tissues, and cleaning supplies. I will always remember this birthday. While drinking my coffee at my favorite shop in Louisville, Kentucky my heart dropped as I read the morning paper’s headline. I knew this would only get worse.

The headline of the Courier Journal in Louisville, Kentucky on March 13th, 2020. In early March, schools, businesses, and events began to close across the nation. (Photo by Cooper Tidwell)

I have been back in Chattanooga for about 10 days. I have only left the house for groceries, exercise, and work. When I got back in town, gatherings with friends turned into groups of four, then two, now it’s just my roommate and I. We both lost our barista jobs for the time being, but we’re staying positive! In moments like these relationships are so important. It’s hard to see the road ahead when the fog is so dense, but eventually, the fog will clear. 

Meet the Storyteller

Cooper Tidwell

Cooper Tidwell is a senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, majoring in Communication with a minor in Theatre. Cooper’s works as a photographer for the University Echo. When he’s not taking photos he works as a barista at Mayfly Coffee on the weekends. You can contact Cooper at ndd764@mocs.utc.edu

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