“Can you edit a photo of the Big House empty?”

As a photo editor, that’s not a normal question to get asked. A picture of a Maize out at Yost? Sure, we have that. Protests on the Diag? Of course. But an empty stadium, let alone the Big House? Well that just isn’t in the job description.

I spent all night looking through the archives of Daily photos trying to find one, but the task was nearly impossible. Thousands and thousands of photos, yet not a single one of an empty Big House. Every photo was saturated with life. With maize and blue crowds, rally towels, sunglasses, posters, etc. From Crisler to Yost to the Big House, all I could find was pictures of beaming students, proud to be a Michigan Wolverine.

Stadiums should be full of an obnoxiously loud student section and a marching band that plays the Victors Song three times in a row but it never getting old. Fists should be punching through the air as the crowd dances to the Blues Brothers song during the final period of each game. Mr. Brightside should be blasting through the speakers as students jump through the bleachers, not knowing the Killers would retweet this ordinary rite. Traditions show these stadiums should be anything but empty.

It’s not just the stadiums. It’s the theaters too. The restaurants. The auditoriums. The classrooms. It’s working hard at rehearsal every night just to see a performance get cancelled. Spending hours in the UGLI on a presentation just to deliver it via a computer screen. Dedicating every day of the semester to The Daily and the newsroom just to see the paper not get printed. It’s a lot of heartbreaking disappointment. But this disappointment doesn’t take away from the hard work, the late nights or the dedication.

Dominick Sokotoff/Daily. Buy this photo.

Here we are, spending what may be our final days of the semester and school year on an almost empty campus. In the midst of this chaos, a lot of us have taken the time to reflect back on the year, scanning through old photos and posting them to Instagram or Facebook. It’s devastating to see it come to this abrupt halt as some say their final goodbyes. As someone who works every day to capture these moments on campus, I decided to try and summarize this past year via photos. I know it’s not quite the closure we were all hoping to get out of this year, but I’m hoping it will serve for something.

So Wolverines, through the lens of my camera and that of several Daily photographers, I invite you to take a look back at this past year. Full of joy, tears and lots of late nights. COVID-19 may have cut our time short, but let’s not forget how lucky we are to be a Michigan Wolverine.

Let’s begin with one of Michigan’s obvious pride and joys: sports. Those warm summer Saturday afternoons spent in the Big House or cold winter walks to Crisler are some of everyone’s fondest memories. From beating Notre Dame in the pouring rain to snagging the Paul Bunyan Trophy, yet again, it was an exciting season for football (that is, up until November 30th, but let’s not talk about that).

A new basketball team took the court and kick off the season by winning the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. Yes, the season had its ups and downs, but don’t let that take away from the highlights. Juwan Howard led the team in his first season as head coach and secured many wins, including one against Michigan State.

And of course, Michigan Hockey had a strong season as well. The team made it to the semifinals in the Big Ten Tournament and who knows, maybe they would have won. It’s also worth noting that Michigan beat Michigan State in football, basketball and hockey this year…something to definitely remember.

Here’s a look at some other highlights in sports this year.

Beyond sports, we were very fortunate to have some interesting speakers visit campus. Politics aside, it’s always unique to have the opportunity to listen to some of these speakers. How many other universities had Bernie Sanders on their diag or Hillary Clinton in their auditorium? Plus, next fall Crisler won’t just be for basketball or gymnastics–we get to host the presidential debate there.

The year was also full of protests and rallies. From passionate students projecting their ideas across the Diag to hanging posters up in the Union opening, people’s voices were heard.

After months of waiting, we finally got the Union back! Even though it didn’t come with the promised Panda Express or Taco Bell, that’s something to look forward to next year. The LSA building also had a nice renovation and turned into a great study spot. And of course, Reggie was there to bless it during its opening.

And finally, here are some of our favorite spots in Ann Arbor. We welcomed Joe’s Pizza to its first location outside of NYC and have worshipped it since. Whether it’s walking through the arb or getting a sandwich from Zingerman’s, there’s a place for everyone in Ann Arbor.

It’s easy to feel empty during this time of crisis. Walking around campus and seeing empty restaurants, stores and libraries. Not having a graduation or getting to see our best friends once more before next fall. Our traditional sense of community has been completely compromised. But in these past few weeks, I think we’ve created a new kind of community. The encouragement and aid I’ve seen students give one another is truly incredible. People have offered beds in their houses, food, cars, etc. in a mutual aid sheet to ensure that everyone is safe and healthy. Professors, advisors and peers have reached out to lend a shoulder to lean on for anyone who needs. Restaurants have provided free meals and the Maize and Blue Cupboard continues to provide food for those who need it. I’ve seen everyone come together to lend a hand and that shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Yes, it’s heartbreaking not being able to see the semester come to the close that we all envisioned. There’s no bandaid to heal that. But seeing this support network from my fellow classmates, that has to make up for something. This experience has united us all and reminds us how lucky we are to be a Wolverine.

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