In early March of 2020, we started to understand the severity of the coronavirus. As we all grappled with what it meant to us -- individually and collectively – we still believed that we would get through this unsettling development relatively quickly.
In short order, the reality became devastatingly real -- and relentless.
Our local businesses, health care providers and local community leaders began efforts to help contain the deadly virus. Businesses became Zoom-savvy and figured out how to interact with customers in the new contactless environment. Grocery stores installed one-way stickers in their aisles and ramped up delivery options. And our health care providers worked diligently -- in spite of the risk -- to care of our sick neighbors. Slowly but steadily, we identified and developed new ways to communicate and reconnect on almost every level.
Remote site communication is difficult at best but we adapted. None of it was easy, but we recognized it was necessary to our survival.
Conversations through Zoom, Skype and social media replaced in-person connections as we all worked through our challenges. The same question loomed every time a Zoom call dropped, every time we struggled to hear someone through a mask: Will we ever recover from this devasting blow?
Despite myriad frustrations, we realized that our friends, neighbors and fellow businessmen and women are all fighting the same difficulties. We are in this together and together we are making it work.
Our community has rallied in so many ways. One memory that stands out for me: When restaurants closed down, Molly’s Irish Pub sent out the word that they needed to sell out the corned beef and cabbage that had already been purchased for St. Patrick’s Day. Within a few hours, the Main Street favorite completely sold out!
During the past year our county came up with creative ways to stay engaged: A drive-thru farmer’s market; outdoor dining that gave our Main Street a promenade feel; lighted enclosed bubbles that felt festive and cheerful, safe and engaging.
We also had pride parades throughout the summer for our health care and frontline workers. There was extraordinary engagement from a community that appreciated their hard work during a terrible time.
Our small paper received donations as well as letters of encouragement and appreciation for coverage that mattered the most to our readers. They knew we were working under threat of COVID-19, just like they were. They saw us with cameras and notebooks and facemasks, covering not only the effects of the pandemic on our county, but protests, fires, school board meetings -- and yes, even a business opening or two.
If we continue to embrace our community spirit and support our local businesses, I am confident we have a fighting chance. Although it will take months to vaccinate everyone, the highly effective doses offer hope for an end to days full of masks instead of smiles, with empty chairs instead of friends and colleagues.
Fauquier County is strong, and has shown itself to be resilient in the face of this crisis. 2021 will see us taking the lessons we’ve learned and applying them to our new normal. I even learned how to unmute myself during a Zoom call. That gives me hope.