Well, perhaps every day is not quite silent and grey, but it does feel a bit like waiting for an Armageddon. Especially since the President has decided to take this opportunity to start breaking down environmental laws so everyone’s lungs and immune systems will be good and weakened for the next pandemic. (Do not even get me started on how millions of Americans are waiting for checks because Trump insisted on using the government funded stimulus as a campaign stump).
It’s been just over four weeks now since what I still think of as the Day the World Ended, back on March 12th. That evening, I was supposed to go to a very worthwhile charity event with one of our media vendors. My boss and I had been invited to meet our sales reps for blowouts at Drybar before the show, and so we took the subway uptown mid-afternoon to do so. But by the time we got to the Upper West Side, the event had been canceled; by the time my hair was blow dried, Broadway was shut down. The group of us scheduled to spend that evening at the concert immediately went together to a wine bar and spent four hours drinking, watching the news alerts on our phones, as social distancing went from the opt-in it had been two days before, to a critical order to save lives. We knew things were about to change and that this would likely be the last night we had in “normalcy”.
In hindsight, listening to a siren right now somewhere in Brooklyn, this entire day was irresponsible. At the time, COVID-19 was spreading through New York. We had hundreds of cases we didn’t know about. We had a curve of sickness and death coming for NYC that we all drastically underestimated. And I still chose to go to work that day even though the office looked like this:
By Sunday the 15th, when the first wave of businesses were forced to close to prevent gatherings, Paul and I had decided to keep Ben home from school starting on March 16th. We saw the pleas from teachers to reduce the number of kids in school; we had the privilege and luxury of being able to stay home with our child (By “we” at the time, I meant “me”, as OMD went from “rotating staff” to “work from home” over the course of the weekend). I had barely had time to post that decision and rationale on Facebook before the schools shut down.
Two days later, the Canadian border closed, causing me to hyperventilate in panic that I might not be able to get home, as Amtrak and Porter Airlines stopped service to Toronto.
By the end of the week, we were in Cuomo’s version of “shelter in place”, watching as the governor cheerfully shamed our local Greenmarket on national TV:
In hindsight, I did not stop to just think through what the impact would be to the healthcare system and how many of our healthcare workers would have to put their own health at risk to save others. I did not know, that last day, that there would be this high of a curve to flatten. None of us knew back in early March that this disease had been quietly spreading below the line of public consciousness for weeks. I knew the coronavirus would rage through New York, and that it would impact the most vulnerable of my neighbors, but I did not realize how horrifying it would be to see New Yorkers put their lives on the line every day for the past month.
I did not know COVID-19 would rage uncontrolled and unchecked through the people who make New York City what it is: our MTA conductors, our teachers, our first responders, and most of all, our healthcare workers.
I did not realize how COVID-19 would kill hundreds of people who worked tirelessly for years to ensure my neighborhood’s children are taught, that we get to work, that we are safe, that we, and our neighbors, are cared for.
I jumped on the #flattenthecurve bandwagon the week after the world ended, but I wish I had jumped on it sooner and encouraged everyone else to do so. I am not sure if more of these brave and self-sacrificing New Yorkers would still be here if all of us had done so.
So here we are four weeks later. We adjust every day to a “new normal”, until that new normal shifts under our feet. At least one day per week now feels like the Day the World Ended over again, as things change faster than I can mentally process. This week, two of my friends came down with COVID-19. This week, the layoffs started at OMD. And when the first round hit yesterday at work, I shut down and spent the evening numbing my brain as much as possible:
This is not waiting for Armageddon, but it does feel, every day, like there is a next step towards some sort of partial apocalypse: more sickness, more death, more sorrow, or, on the other side of this COVID-19 coin, more jobs lost, more people without even basic resources, more people vulnerable than ever before to the consequences of the extreme capitalism of America in the early 21st century. Every day is like Sunday, and even a beautiful spring Friday has an undertone of being silent and grey. We will all wait this out, we will all get to the changed world on the other side. I just wish we didn’t have to all bear witness, together, to as much despair and suffering on the way as we all will before this is over.