As we drive into South Bethlehem at night, the Bethlehem Star shines in the distance. A landmark that quickly becomes a reminder of home for residents has also become a reminder that there is always a light awaiting following a dark time.
This past year has challenged most cities across the world. The pandemic overcasted vibrant cities and communities with uncertainty and a loss of normalcy.
Nationally, the employment-to-population ratio dropped from 60 to 51. Locally, unemployment peaked in April 2020, but as of April 2021, the Lehigh Valley has recovered three-fourths of the jobs lost due to the pandemic.
While the pandemic has caused economic, social and mental strain on communities across the country, the light in Bethlehem continues to shine.
And with vaccines now available for all U.S. citizens over the age of 16, we anticipate a summer and fall filled with the lively spirit of Bethlehem, reminding us all why we fell in love with this city in the first place.
This turning point in the pandemic invites an excitement for the future that will resemble normalcy. And when we think back on this past year as Bethlehem residents, one word comes to mind: resilient.
The smell of our favorite coffee shops that swapped to takeout only can spark nostalgic memories of sitting inside our favorite coffee spots, or weekends spent at Wind Creek events and nights spent trying out new restaurants in North Bethlehem.
And while the initial shock of COVID-19 seemed to place a dark cloud over a normal day in Bethlehem, people’s ability and willingness to adapt kept Bethlehem’s light going.
Socially distant celebrations of holidays, such as Gingerbread Games over Christmas in North Bethlehem helped to keep us connected throughout a challenging time and remind us of the importance of neighborly friendships.
With almost 27 percent of Pennsylvania’s population fully vaccinated, we are looking forward to events like Musikfest, art gallery grand openings and farmers markets returning to the loyal customers that await.
Communities have responded to the collective impact of COVID-19 through social media and are working to maintain some type of social stimulation virtually.
We saw the Black Lives Matter movement assemble through social media, and a year later, people are still working together to take a stand on issues that may have not received the same amount of attention without the time we spent in lockdown with less distractions.
Now that we are reentering a world where we can do this face-to-face, it is important to remember to continue to work together as a community and remain resilient as we face new challenges. Re-entering the community and seeing familiar faces for the first time in a year will be an exciting time filled with celebration, but more importantly, reflection.
Through this past year, the one thing that has kept Bethlehem’s light shining is the communities we have found within each other. As we return to “normal life,” we will continue to stand by each other’s sides.
As music festivals return, we reflect on the musicians that hosted virtual concerts throughout lockdown. As art galleries re-open, we think about the artists who may have found inspiration throughout lockdown to create art that may have never existed without the pandemic’s impact.
As we run into our neighbors more and more, we remember what we have all endured, and continue to support one another as we explore what a post-COVID-19 life could mean for us and our community.
And one post-COVID-19 day, when we drive back into Bethlehem after a road trip, we will still see that star shining bright in the distance to welcome us home. We will remember the community that carried us through a challenging year and realize that that is the true light of Bethlehem.