Two years ago, MIT got the email that we were getting evicted. The name for this day varies from person to person: email day, doomsday, the exodus. People frantically tried to piece their lives together, to pack up, move out, and say goodbye.
Now, whenever I enter a room, for the slightest moment, I picture the environment desolated. Chairs stacked on tables; chalk resting in the trays of chalkboards. I can almost see them — the ghosts. The people whose time at MIT was interrupted. Here are some of their stories.
There were signs of things ramping up. Purell stands everywhere, Campus Preview Weekend canceled. Large classes were moved online while Harvard announced that everyone had to leave. That wouldn’t happen here, right? Admin actually cares about its students, right? I even told one of my Harvard friends that, if need be, they could stay in my room indefinitely. Technically against policy, but it’s not like anyone in East Campus would know. Not like anyone would care.
And then the rumors started. “MIT follows its peer institutions.” They will kick us out next. The email was confirmed to be sent out at 1 p.m. Still, I went to classes. I had nothing better to do. One class came and went. No email. I went to another — it only had three people registered for it. One of them was a friend of mine. We were scared.
After class, we talked for a while. Even though nothing official had happened yet, it just felt so surreal. We hugged. That was the first time I hugged them. We walked to EC together. We hugged again.
That was the last time I hugged them.
The email came, and I resigned myself. I bought tickets to go home the following Tuesday. I went to my 6.042 midterm. People were gathered and nervous, but the exam went through as planned. Life goes on. One week was more than enough time; at least we had one more week.
Toomas Tennisberg ’23
Over the group chat, the team found a time to meet one last time that Thursday. At the time, we were supposed to have a week within our control: pack, organize travel plans, say goodbye. We were celebrating our seniors — we figured we may not see them again. It was bittersweet, but we were having fun. Balloons and streamers decorated the room, party tunes blasting over a speaker as we focused on being together and celebrating the team camaraderie. Someone had acquired a keg; a true symbol of a special occasion.
It was after midnight and the energy had started winding down. A few people had already left the party to go home, but the rest of us had turned the music up and were dancing along or trying to converse over the music. A few of my teammates were squished up against each other on the couch, and I remember seeing one of them look up from their phones and yell something to the room, but nobody really heard her over the music that was bumping. She waved to catch the attention of a teammate standing next to the speaker and they hit the power button to shut off the music. In the next instant, everyone stopped their conversations and turned to the person on the couch.
“They just sent out an email. We have to leave by Sunday. We’re getting kicked out.”
Within a minute, the gathering splintered. Everyone checked their phones to read the email and emergency text that was sent out. People left the room to call parents, roommates, to try to reschedule flights and trains and buses, to panic in all their individual ways. Someone on the couch started crying and a few of us gathered around them. When I left the room, I saw a friend outside in tears, having a panic attack. Several of us nucleated around her, encircling her in a wordless embrace. When I left that cluster and went outside, I passed another nucleus of support on the sidewalk, circling a teammate who wasn’t sure if they could go home or if they would have a place to stay.
I was in bed, trying to go to sleep, when I heard crying from down the hall. The kind of crying that requires getting up. Someone was rubbing his shoulder, others telling stories. And the night went on.
It was just a normal week, rumors of a virus silently closing in on all of us, how we were all going to be sent home, etc. etc. you know — the usual. My phone was exploding, as all of my group chats were collectively freaking out. Everyone had questions, but the questions in the Next House Exec chat stayed relatively consistent: “How do we help out?”
I’d like to say that we were able to cast aside our personal emotions and fears to help each other move out smoothly in less than a week, but that’d be a blatant lie. I tried my best to push through the tears that drowned me every night to lead and attend meetings, and eventually the rest of the Next Exec did the thing Exec always does: they saw me struggling, and stepped in to help run things. They rented a U-Haul van and literally cleaned out the Cambridge U-Haul of their boxes. We spent hours speedrunning organizing PODS deliveries. We (unsuccessfully) tried to push for the clarity from the admin that we so very much lacked. And at the end of it all, we let out a primal scream, letting the whole House know that we, too, were overwhelmed by emotions from the week.
Days blurred together. I lived hour by hour, savoring the last moments. I spent hours crying, hugging friends for comfort, worrying, pushing through the tears and cruel ironies. I remember wondering how many friends I’d suddenly never see in person again.
Exec did much more than I can capture in this recollection of the week, and I’m proud of everyone. All I hope is that our effort was worth it, but I can’t be the judge of that.
Tommy Adebiyi ’21
There are very few moments where MIT truly comes together for each other. We say this is a school for collaboration, but what does that mean? During the Exodus, the MIT community came together to work miracles. We were each other’s support systems. We helped each other up, and we kept on going. Things are only barely getting back to normal. But every now and then, we should take a step back. We have to see where we are coming from to see where we are going.