The mood in Molly’s Shebeen pub just before midnight in Manhattan was giddy to say the least.
sort of incredulous acceptance washed over us as we realised (Mayor) de Blasio was serious about closing everything down that very night to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
That was almost three weeks ago, and just a couple of days after my wife and three-year-old daughter had left to spend a few days with her parents in Arizona for spring break.
As an Irishman living in New York for eighteen years, I like to think I’ve become hardened by everything this fine city can throw at you. And yet, as phrases like “social distancing” and “shelter at home” left the airwaves and slid into the collective lexicon with terrifying ease, the reality of existing in isolation for an extended period of time began to sink in.
The city during those first few days of the lockdown was a virtual ghost town. The din of traffic eerily absent save for the wailing of an ambulance en route to a nearby hospital. Peering out the window of our apartment, you could count the number of pedestrians on just one hand – and all of them were dressed in medical garb.
A trip to the supermarket revealed great shortages of staples like bread, pasta and surprisingly, tins of tomatoes. As for protective masks, well an old t-shirt cut to size works equally well doesn’t it?
Today, with my family on the other side of the country, the days can be long but an abundance of time has led to the rediscovery of long forgotten pursuits like reading for pleasure, painting and even candlemaking.
In one sense, New York is like any other city on the planet right now and it’s easy to be consumed by the fear and anxiety that seem to be everywhere you turn. And yet in all the confusion, each day brings unmistakable moments of levity that serve to lighten the mood.
The most remarkable example of solidarity takes place each evening shortly before sundown. As the clock strikes seven, New Yorkers step onto balconies and rooftops or pause momentarily on the sidewalk to holler in rapturous applause for the medical professionals that put their life on the line each and everyday.
As the ovation subsides and we move inside once more, filled with gratitude and hope for a brighter tomorrow.
We are living history. The challenges posed by Covid 19 are similar the world over but everybody’s experience of this emergency will be different.
In this special series, ‘Lockdown Letters' gives our readers at home and across the globe an opportunity to share their stories about how the Coronavirus and the measures to tackle its spread are impacting their lives in these unprecedented times.
Please email your submission (400 words max.) to email@example.com along with a photograph. We will publish as many letters as possible on Independent.ie and a selection in print every week.