I’ve lived in Manhattan my whole life, which comes as a shock to some. They always want to know what it’s like living in the Big Apple, if I go see Broadway shows and eat street hot dogs every week, and really, if it’s as amazing as it seems on TV.
Most of the time it is! There was always something to do with a movie theater around the corner from my apartment, a never-ending list of new restaurants to try and a subway to take me anywhere within the five boroughs my heart desired.
All of this came to a halt when COVID-19 made its way to New York.
I spent the tail end of spring break in Florida and was generally unaware of how bad things had gotten in the short time I was away. The night before I left for Florida, I went to dinner with a friend. The waiters had gloves on and maybe one or two wore masks but that was strange to me. I remember talking about how crazy it was that some schools were going online for a few weeks.
When I got back from Florida, we were done with in-person instruction for the semester and the entire city had shut down.
I called my mom in my taxi from the airport and asked her if she would come with me to return some clothes the next day. “You can’t,” she said, “the stores are all closed now.”
I was shocked, and as I drove through the city, I could hardly recognize it.
The next few months were difficult. The first week of online learning, most of my professors asked the class to go around and say where we were quarantining. When I said, “I’m in New York,” their eyebrows raised, and when I explained that I was in Manhattan, the hub of the coronavirus as my dad liked to say, I could see they grew even more alarmed.
As a physician, my dad went to work every single day in the first few months of the pandemic. He would come home from the hospital, and most of the time, I’d be too afraid to ask how things were going. When he told me they started running out of room in their morgue, things really got put into perspective for me.
This was no longer just a story on the news. It was happening right before my eyes. Once again, New York was the center of attention.
I spent a few months inside my apartment only going outside to walk my dog and go on runs in the park. From my window, I could see the line outside the supermarket that spanned all the way down the street and around the corner. I felt trapped being home and not being able to see my high school friends who were physically closer than they’d ever been in a regular semester. But like the rest of the world, I adapted.
Coronavirus taught me to be strong and learn to work around bumps in the road. Everyday at 7 p.m., I would hear the people on my block cheering and banging pots and pans to pay tribute to health care workers — and suddenly, those strangers became neighbors. While the pandemic has affected everyone in different ways, I’d like to think that there’s some comfort in the word everyone.
For the first time, we’re all unified in one group effort to get through the pandemic, the quarantine, the missed holidays and celebrations.
Somehow, in being alone, we’ve learned to strive together and, in a way, it brings light to living through a monumental moment in history.