Months ago, as I watched the slow but inevitable progress of a virus that devastated China and then spread from one country to another, I thought things would be shut down for a couple of months and then things would get back to normal.
The first indication we had that things weren’t going to be quite the same was March 13th when we went for our normal weekly shopping outing. We were already thinking about self-isolating for a week or so, so we’d intended to stock up on a few things in order to limit our trips out for groceries.
We’d already heard that toilet paper and hand sanitizer were pretty much sold out everywhere, but as we walked through Walmart that evening, row after row had empty shelves – canned meats, pasta, frozen vegetables, juices, everything people knew they’d need to feed their kids over March break the next week and for however long after.
We got everything we needed and pledged that would be our last trip out shopping as a group until things blew over and that we’ stay home as much as we could.
Over that weekend, my son got word that his office would be closed until further notice but that they’d be in touch to arrange work from home, and the local Sports Dome where we walk was closing until further notice.
Over the next week or 10 days, more and more things closed until only grocery and drug stores were fully open and slowly as events began to be cancelled, it began to sink in that this wasn’t going to be just a couple of weeks.
Tomorrow, it’ll be two full months since that fateful shopping trip. Easter has come and gone and so has Mothers’ Day and most folks have endured them more or less alone.
We were lucky. At least the three of us were here together, so neither holiday was much different than usual, but two family birthdays passed without an opportunity to head out for dinner on the town and now we’re looking forward to the first long weekend of the summer – without any of the fireworks and festivals and yard sales and other things we’ve come to expect.
If ever I’d believed this would pass quickly, cancellation of festival after festival has proven that we’re in it for the long haul. The spring conventions and air shows went first, then Bluesfest and today, the CNE and the annual air show.
We’ve talked for the last 19 years about how the world changed forever on 9/11 and it definitely did. I remember our trip to Florida in 2000 and to Washington in 2001, the April before the towers came down. It was such a trusting world back then. We traveled on birth certificates, not passports. We went to the naval base at Pensacola and then the navy yards in Washington with virtually no security, no suspicion, just a warm welcome for visiting foreigners. I’m pretty sure that just months after that Washington visit, everything changed in both locations, and I doubt things have returned to “normal”.
So it will be with the COVID-19 recovery. It’ll be many years, if ever, before people again venture out on cruises without at least wondering if they might be trapped at sea for weeks because no port facility is willing to take the sick. Most of us will seriously consider that international trip we were looking forward to, and many of those destinations will likely have new restrictions, health checks and scrutiny for foreign visitors.
Some day, the music will flow again and the slap of a puck against the boards and the cheer of the crowd will fill arenas, but it won’t be soon, and it’ll be a long time until we don’t cringe every time the guy in the next seat coughs and wheezes.
Like 9/11, COVID-19 has changed us, but as we did after 9/11, we will survive to find a life, a country and a world full of wonders for us to discover.
We’ll likely just discover them a little more cautiously, and we will remember 2020.