Our spring of 2020 was hijacked by the Coronavirus Pandemic. In early March—right after our ceremony at Borough Hall to award the winners of our 34th annual Poetry and Essay Contest, the entire state of New Jersey and much of the country shut down. Our club’s planned Derby Day fundraiser for the USR Ambulance Corps was canceled–as was the Kentucky Derby itself. Our annual Baby Shower for the Shelter and Children’s Aid and Family Services was canceled, as was our State Convention. When our USR Library closed, all club meetings there were canceled indefinitely.
We were to stay at home and self-quarantine. Social distancing, masks, and gloves became our out-of-the-house-wear when we ventured out to get essential supplies like food and medicine. When we went to the grocery store, we waited on lines to be admitted due to reduced capacity of shoppers allowed inside, followed arrows on the now one-way aisles, and we yearned to be able to purchase things like toilet paper and cleaning supplies. Pajamas, sweats, and workout clothes became daily wear, and hair grew long and wild. School was closed and most students and teachers moved to online learning at home. Places of Worship, restaurants, and businesses closed, flights were canceled, and travel severely restricted. The economy ground to a halt.
Families sheltered together and parents did their best to home school with some online help from their children’s teachers. Board games, reading, walks in the neighborhood, cooking, TV, and, for some, online gaming helped time to pass. “Virtual” became the new normal. Zoom joined phones and FaceTime as the way to communicate.
Graduations, weddings, birthdays, and anniversaries were all affected. Our USR Fire Department began drive-by birthday celebrations with engines, horns and a police car siren for children who couldn’t have a birthday party. Others had drive-by birthday parade celebrations organized by friends and family in decorated cars. No one could visit a family member in assisted living or a nursing home because the elderly were most at risk.
Days stretched into weeks and the weeks into months—three of them.
Now, at the end of June, there is some loosening of the restrictions in hopes of getting the economy and the population back to a semblance of normal. The numbers of new cases of the virus are lower, and the hospitals are not on overload with corona virus patients. Hospitals can now resume elective surgeries and preventative care. Masks are still required in public, and we tread lightly for fear of a new spike in cases that would shut us down again. To date, over 100,000 people have died from the virus in the U.S.
Throughout it all, on the front lines, doctors, nurses, hospital and healthcare personnel worked unselfishly and tirelessly around the clock to cope with the hospitalizations and deaths. The number of those who succumbed to the virus mounted day by day. These essential workers, along with mail and package delivery, garbage removal, and transportation personnel, have never been more appreciated. Across the hard hit tri-state area, candles were lit in their honor, pots banged, and applause rang out of windows every evening in gratitude.
Our members did what they could to help locally—donating money for Feeding America and other organizations to help those in need, ordering lunches, dinners and making sandwiches and cookies for hospital and service personnel, writing notes and having Crocs delivered to Valley and Hackensack Hospitals, donating food for food pantries and the homeless, making cloth masks for friends and hospital workers, and supporting our police, ambulance and fire department volunteers. Most importantly, we stayed home to protect ourselves, our families, and others.
We hope that a vaccine will be developed soon to combat this world-wide pandemic. We look forward to meeting together again in the Fall, and beginning a new club year with our 4th Annual Garage Sale which is planned for September 12th.
Stay safe and stay well this summer!