Our days of COVID-19 through the eyes of a child

Like most parents, Alaya’s mom, Shara Horne, suddenly found herself cast into an unfamiliar role – grade-school teacher. So, she came up with a unique assignment: What if Alaya documented the experience of what it’s like to live through a global pandemic on the pages of her diary? Alaya, who is 8 years old, put pen to paper, capturing the roller coaster of emotions each of us has been enduring.- By Mark A. Waligore (Tyson Horne / tyson.horne@ajc.com)

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Johns Creek second-grader shares her pandemic diary.

Like most young girls, Alaya Horne enjoys writing in her diary.

Like most parents, Alaya’s mom, Shara Horne, suddenly found herself cast into an unfamiliar role — grade-school teacher.

So, she came up with a unique assignment: What if Alaya documented the experience of what it’s like to live through a global pandemic on the pages of her diary?

Alaya, who is 8 years old, put pen to paper, capturing the roller coaster of emotions each of us has been enduring.

Alaya Horne poses for a photo with her diary in her Johns Creek neighborhood. (Photo: ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM}

Credit: Alyssa Pointer, alyssa.pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer, alyssa.pointer@ajc.com

Page after page, a story of innocence and wonderment unfolds. Each entry provides a reminder of what it’s like to see the world — no matter how crazy or uncertain — through the eyes of a second-grader.

In her diary, which is purple and shaped like a cat, Alaya reflects on the unfamiliarity of it all.

April 14 diary entry from Alaya Horne.

“Good afternoon, Diary. I have a lot to tell you. These are some CRAZY times.”

She displays the worry many of us feel.

“I wish I could write more, but I am starting to feel uncomfortable.”

She writes about her sense optimism.

“I have a lot of hope that everyone is going to be OK.”

April 15 diary entry from Alaya Horne.

And she urges people to do everything they can to protect the most vulnerable among us. “Everyone should stay home and follow the rules.”

Over the last several weeks, we’ve been looking for opportunities to share more personal stories from our readers — personal pieces about how they’re coping during these difficult times.

April 16 diary entry from Alaya Horne.

So far, we’ve heard from leaders of nonprofits, retirees, college presidents, small business owners and clinical psychologists, to name a few.

All of them adults.

But Alaya’s diary provides a unique — almost unheard of — perspective.

Let’s meet Alaya.

She lives in Johns Creek with her mother and father, Shara and Chris, and her little brother, Killian, who is 20 months old.

Alaya Horne (left) holds her diary as she poses with her mother, Shara, and her little brother, Killian, at their Johns Creek neighborhood. (Photo: ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

She enjoys writing, dancing and singing.

She likes to make her own puppets, using stuffed animals, chopsticks and pipe cleaners.

She collects “Yoshis” — plush stuffed toys that are part dinosaur, part turtle — and plans on bringing some to children’s hospitals when life returns to normal.

“They’re adorable.”

She isn’t a big fan of virtual learning.

“The first week was loads of troubles. It was no fun at all.”

She does not miss school.

“Not. At. All.”

She does miss her friends.

“I can’t wait to get back outside and have play dates.”

Her mom is doing the best she can.

“She’s a pretty good teacher. But sometimes it’s hard for us to focus with a little baby making so much noise.”

Like all of us, she’s concerned.

“This is all very new for me. People panic and get really scared. I usually have a lot of hope. But sometimes it goes away.”

She can’t believe what we’re witnessing.

“I am ALIVE during something that has NEVER happened to the world.”

And she’s one optimistic young lady.

“I’ve been FaceTiming my friends, trying to help all us. I just know that we’re all going to be OK.

Alaya’s mom, as you might imagine, is not only proud of her daughter, but she’s amazed by it all.

“She’s going through so many different emotions right now,” Shara Horne said. “It’s so nice to see her put her thoughts in one place.

“That’s my favorite part, seeing her alone in her thoughts.”

Today marks the first installment of this unique story. Every few weeks, we’ll be checking back with Alaya and her family.

Along the way, Alaya will share more of her diary entries.

Until then, as Alaya wrote on one page:

“Bye Diary. Don’t worry.”

Mark A. Waligore is Managing Editor and Senior Director at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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