Reflecting on a year of loss, grit, and pulling together

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From Covid-19 to racial injustice and an unprecedented election cycle, the last 12 months have tested the Institute and the world in ways previously unimagined. MIT News takes a look back at some of the milestones in a year like no other.
The pivotal email from President L. Rafael Reif arrived in the inboxes of the MIT community on March 10, 2020. After weeks of monitoring the emerging coronavirus, it was decision time: "We have come to see that our community has a significant role to play in the concerted public health response to this regional, national and global threat," he wrote.

The full extent of that role wasn't yet clear as students immediately prepared to leave campus, followed by the majority of faculty and staff, to decrease the risk of spreading Covid-19. But the next 12 months would test the Institute and the world in ways previously unimagined. While rising to the challenges of remote education and keeping campus safe, MIT community members would also cope with the impacts of the pandemic in their own lives. Urgent calls for social justice and the prospect of an unstable democracy added to the turbulence.

A March 10, 2021 ceremony, MIT Reflects: Moments of Remembrance and Hope, will mark the one-year anniversary of when MIT ramped down its operations and embarked on its journey through the Covid era. The program includes music and poetry as well as prayers drawn from the diversity of the world's spiritual and ethical traditions, followed by smaller group discussions.

Here, we take a nonexhaustive look back at some of the milestones in a year like no other.

Spring: A community leaps into action

As hospitalizations surged in the early months of the pandemic, the need for medical equipment was acute. A cross-campus team responded quickly to collect PPE from MIT labs and deliver it to frontline workers. Engineers designed disposable face shields and low-cost, open-source ventilators that could be mass-produced and widely deployed. MIT's Rapid Innovation Dashboard filled with projects aimed at helping the people most affected by Covid-19, and by June, MIT faculty, students, staff, and alumni were working to help local manufacturers pivot their operations to produce much-needed…
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