The coronavirus pandemic has left us all in uncharted waters, with no horizon in sight. But with businesses and schools closed, national pastimes on hold, and the traditional flow of life ground to a halt, one thing’s for sure:
We’re carrying on. With new worries and “social distancing” habits, but also with new perspectives and priorities. We're sharing several of your personal stories.
For some, “coping” begins with a loaded chest freezer and a year’s supply of toilet paper. For others, it’s volunteering to check in or deliver staples to those who are at-risk and self-isolating. It's virtual meetings, classes, yoga, and figuring out how to work from home when the kids are off, too.
Whatever you’re doing to weather this storm, The Gazette wants to know. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and include a selfie if you can.
Three boys idle down a quiet street on the far west side of Colorado Springs, laughing and talking about whatever it is tween boys talk about when they’re with good friends, on a sunny-enough afternoon, in the surreal storm of a mid-March snow day that has nothing to do with snow.
The tallest boy casually twirls a baseball bat, occasionally swinging it at one of the big plastic cans hulking at the curb because, national emergency or not, it’s still trash day. His friends hoot at the kettle drum boom the blows make.
Someday, maybe they will meet at a reunion and say, Remember when we were kids and school got canceled, like, forever, and we walked to the park to play baseball?
Yes! And everything was closed, and everyone was freaking out about something …
And we were playing trash can drums.
And that lady yelled at us!?!
The boy with the bat draws back to give a big blue bin a whack.
“Don’t even think about it,” comes a stern, disembodied voice from the depths of a nearby porch.
Heads snap up and the batter freezes.
The youthful trio continues on with quickened steps, having learned an important lesson in pandemic etiquette:
When the village that raises you is working from home and keeping an eye out, best not get up to mischief. — Stephanie Earls
If you go westbound down Manitou Avenue, to where the tourist shops fade and the bungalows emerge with the prayer flags and tapestry of the town's true hippie days, you'll come to D&D Liquor.
Home of the 99-cent shooter, the banner displays. "The friendliest liquor store in town."
And inside you'll find a man with flowing, silver hair and a Fu Manchu mustache, wearing a Western button-up and sitting behind the counter with his dog, Toponis, which is the name of the Colorado town his family came to four or five generations ago.
As for David Martin, he's a Manitou guy. Born here in 1962. A proud product of Woodstock, he says.
Here at D&D this evening, he plays George Jones and Johnny Cash. And business is booming.
The coronavirus pandemic has shut down bars and restaurants and many other places where people gather. But doors have been open at D&D.
"It's more than just selling alcohol," Martin says.
He's worked here the better part of a decade. Why? "The people," he says.
And it's about people now, as it was after the 2012 wildfire and the wicked floods that followed.
"That was one of my most emotional times," Martin says. "We were actually open that night. They tried to make us close, but I was here that night, and I stayed open. I was the only business in town open. And I'm glad I was." — Seth Boster
Last week, 19-year-old Hina Suzuki was learning wilderness emergency medical skills on Santa Cruz Island off the California coast with classmates from The Colorado Springs School.
The experiential-learning trip was cut short by a week, though, due to restrictions from the coronavirus outbreak. The school is closed for at least a month.
Instead of basking in the elation that accompanies the last few months of high school, graduating seniors like Suzuki are coping with a sad moment in history.
“I know not going to school is preventing the virus from spreading, but we want to do things for the last time,” she said, such as prom, spring sports and typical senior traditions.
Suzuki has studied as an exchange student in the United States since she was 12 and came to The Colorado Springs School four years ago as a high school freshman. She was looking forward to seeing her parents and grandparents in her homeland of Japan in April, but an interview she had there for a college scholarship was canceled and changed to an online format.
In addition to visiting family for the first time in nearly a year, she wanted to see the cherry blossoms, which she says are beautiful.
“I didn’t want to miss it,” Suzuki said. “Everyone’s outside having picnics and enjoying it. I just love it.”
But she’s taking the advice of her elders in Japan, who have been affected by the coronavirus since February and always seem to know what they’re talking about.
“They want me to stay at home as much as I can and do whatever I can to protect myself,” Suzuki said.
She’s heard toilet paper is a scarce commodity in Japan, like the United States, and that schools have closed as well.
“It’s scary to see all the empty shelves in stores,” Suzuki said.
Her family members think people might be overreacting.
“But it’s understandable because there are a lot of elderly people in Japan, so I get why,” she said.
Along with doing her part to not spread the virus, Suzuki is spending time cleaning, brushing up on her Japanese in preparation for the online scholarship interview, reading and, like everyone else, waiting to see how the situation shakes out.
“It’s affecting everything in our lives.” — Debbie Kelley
Tom Schlinkman is a neighbor’s neighbor. Even when there’s no pandemic, he’s always available to lend a hand. But in these new uncertain times, he’s right there, knocking on your door at 9 a.m. to tell you where to find toilet paper because he knows you didn't beat the masses to the shelves.
“It’s one thing to have a one-to-two-month supply, but a year’s supply?" he says. "And to know it’s going to hurt other people? It’s disgusting.”
If the paper goods run out, he's not too concerned. There's always what the "old-timers" did, he says, which is use a rag and submit to more loads of laundry, or take a shower after you do your business.
He’s not panicking, but after his 53 years on the planet, he knows human behavior.
“People freak out, which causes other people to freak out,” he says. “It causes people to get hurt.”
Everything will come back, he believes, including the stock market, and "with a vengeance."
Older folks are the ones we should all look to. They’ve seen crises come and go, and understand they have pretty much no control over what happens. All they can do is surrender and make the best out of it.
“Things that happen in life will be good and bad,” he says, “and you can be responsible for you and your neighbors.”
Schlinkman is staying busy while the pandemic grasps us all in its meaty fist. He’s busy fixing up his turn-of-the-century house near downtown so he can put it on the market and move to California, where his husband patiently waits.
There's more than enough to keep him busy, but he understands others might be in for a challenging time.
“Find a hobby. Find out who you are,” he says. “It’s a good time for reflection. Heal yourself. Relax and watch what’s going on around you.” — Jennifer Mulson
People don't go to coffee shops just for coffee.
Brandon DelGrosso knows that. He knows customers come to his coffee shop for the high fives and the hugs. For a place to sit and talk awhile.
That’s what makes this so hard.
"You come in the morning at 8 a.m. and it's usually full with people," said DelGrosso, who owns Switchback Coffee Roasters. "It's so weird to come to your cafe and it's empty.”
Switchback, like other bars and restaurants around the state, is closed to dine-in customers due to the spreading coronavirus.
"To be honest, it sucks," he said. "It’s hard to know what emotion I’m feeling. It feels somber."
But coffee is still brewing. Switchback is offering online and pickup orders. They’ll even bring a drink out to your car.
In recent days, more emotions have poured in.
A friend gave DelGrosso enough money to keep paying Switchback's staff of 10 during the 30-day shutdown. He hasn't talked to some of his high school classmates in 20 years, but they ordered bags of coffee online to be shipped across the country. A regular bought $500 worth of gift cards. If you walk in for a coffee, you'll see smiling baristas keeping busy.
“We’re seeing the outpouring of love,” he said. “People are saying, ‘We’re going to keep you open.’” — Amanda Hancock
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
The wisdom, from Fred Rogers, has always been a guiding principle for Krista Tribble, of Manitou Springs.
“Selfishly, helping other people makes me feel good,” she admits.
You don’t have to be a child to be scared of what the news is delivering these days. If ever there was a need for helpers, Tribble figured, this is it.
So on Monday, the 43-year-old mom of four logged into Nextdoor, the social media platform that lets neighbors connect, with an offer:
“Hello, if anyone needs help, please let me know. I'd be happy to run to the store for you, pick up scripts, or if you need help around the house,” she wrote. “I'd rather those with compromised immune systems stay safe. With my parents, I just put the groceries on the porch, rang the bell, and left. Let me know if I can help you as well.”
The comments started rolling in. A few people were interested in taking her up on her offer; most just wanted to applaud her attitude and say thanks for a post that had raised their spirits.
“It's folks like you that restore my faith in humanity!”
“Thank you Krista. We need more people like you!”
And, “Way to be people! Shine bright!”
Before Tribble could help anyone out, though, she learned her husband may have been exposed to the virus during travel for his job, and he went into self-quarantine.
Tribble realized the best gift she could give her community was to stay away, so she did, too.
“Right now is kind of driving me crazy because I can’t be out helping and contributing somehow to make things easier for others,” she said. “But I would feel so bad if I got somebody sick. That’s the exact opposite of what I want for the world.”
A good deed can do good, even when it doesn’t work out the way you’d planned, though.
Kindness, even if it ends up being a gesture, can have a ripple effect.
As the coronavirus crisis deepens, more grassroots helpers are stepping up, posting on social media and volunteering to assist friends, neighbors and complete strangers with shopping, food delivery or other needs.
“I hope that’s not just happening here, but everywhere," Tribble said. "I hope other people will see those (posts) … and be inspired to help in some way, if they can.” — Stephanie Earls