Here at Saint Louis University, we often say we are “the heart of Saint Louis.” Physically, that description is correct: We are just about equidistant from the edges of the city and have easy access to most of what it has to offer. In the context of our mission statement, our role as the “heart” is even more justified: SLU is the Jesuit lifeblood of St. Louis, giving students the resources and knowledge to make the city and our world a more equitable and livable place. If SLU is the heart, then the students are the blood.
For now, though, this heart barely beats. Just as the blood moving through the heart gives it purpose, SLU is nothing without the droves of bright minds, young and old, flowing through its atria and ventricles out into the wider St. Louis community. Stay-at-home orders and online classes keep us from meeting on the steps of the clock tower, catching cherry blossom leaves in the Village or rubbing the Billiken’s stomach at Chaifetz Arena. Students no longer play at Hermann Stadium, drink coffee and tea with the Jesuits or laugh and smile their way down West Pine to dinner at Grand Dining Hall. Our absence on campus is not just noticeable––it is painful.
Nevertheless, the campus lives on with the plants and the animals, as well as a handful of students who were granted refuge in the remaining dorms. The pictures here should not make you lament your absence, but should instead remind you of the community that awaits your return. We must make do with what we have for now, but when the world is ready, we will fill this heart to the brim once again.
When living the dream, few of us have the good sense to appreciate what we have been given. At the end of my journey across campus, I stopped at Xavier Hall to catch my breath on a bench surrounded by trees. As I sat, a bird hobbled along a branch to meet me above my head. It was a peculiar bird: It had markings like a zebra and was smaller than a mouse. It didn’t resemble any species of bird I could remember seeing at SLU. I started to silently fumble for the telescopic lens in my backpack, to which the bird simply tilted its head in confusion. As I struggled, I had a realization: By the time I would have switched my lens and perfected my aperture, the bird would likely be gone. I chose to sit quietly and watch the bird as it pecked at a leaf, scratched its wing, and then, having seen its business through, promptly flew away toward Forest Park. I never got a picture of the bird, but I hope you can understand.