LAST WEEK’S COVER PHOTO, which featured the Palace Theatre sign announcing its temporary closing, pretty much encapsulated the bad news we have been covering for the last month, and which we continue to report in this edition.
We had already spent the previous few days fielding a series of phone calls, charting the potentially devastating impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on this community’s already-struggling economy. Local businesses were closing—their owners telling employees who desperately needed their paychecks to go home. Other businesses were cutting back hours and services, trying to keep their doors open while still protecting the safety of their employees and customers.
Even worse, the events that many of us had looked forward to for months—and which at least held the promise of bringing visitors into our community and customers into our businesses— were being cancelled or postponed.
The schools were temporarily closing, as well, just as staff and students and their families prepared to return from spring break. And as if that wasn’t enough, the lights suddenly went out in every ballpark, arena and stadium across this country. Our favorite national distraction—sports—was out of business. A calendar filled with more track meets, golf tournaments, softball games and tennis matches than we could point a camera at had abruptly emptied.
The news was bleak. It was also a moving target—one that we had been chasing already for two weeks. It just wouldn’t stand still. Having been swallowed whole by the frenetic pace of news-gathering, I hadn’t even stopped to ponder what it all meant. I was living in that special newsroom bubble—the one in which you are well-informed, but not yet fully cognizant.
That almost blissful state ended abruptly in the waning hours of last Wednesday’s sprint to deadline, when our friend Ray Weeks walked through the door to tell us the Palace Theatre was going to close. It was like that giant inner motor that had been revving all day, driving us to the finish line, just abruptly sputtered and died. When reality hits, it hits hard.
Early the next morning, I read the Palace Theatre’s post on Facebook, announcing their decision to close. “It felt personal,” Ray wrote, “and it was a little heartbreaking. Because we love this theater and we love when people come to see us. We love the crowds, and we love when, instead of crowds, we have a few people in the lobby and we get to chat about movies, or our lives, or your lives.”
It struck me, then, that it’s more than the loss of a business— it’s the loss of community, of our daily conversation, of the anticipation that comes when we open our doors every morning, not really knowing who will walk through them, or what they will say, or what we will learn, or where that exchange—however brief—will lead us next.
When The Record staff met at the end of last week to discuss the impact all this grim news was actually going to have on our own jobs, we all agreed on one thing: that the coronavirus may disrupt our lives and make us feel isolated from one another, but we are still a community. We still need that collective sense of purpose, those common stories we share, that feeling that—one way or another—we’ll get through this together.
As we turned again to our work this week, we realized that at the core of all this bad news, there was this rich abundance of good news, too. Everywhere we looked, there were signs that we were taking care of each other, checking in on each other, maybe even realizing, from this new perspective, how much we appreciated the community that we are.
Read these pages, and you’ll see it, too. We just need to find new ways, in our self-imposed isolation, to keep that conversation going, to be mindful of the shared history we are living and writing, to appreciate all the pieces that make our community work and that—we believe—will keep it working.
We are in this together. More lights will likely go out before we have ridden out this storm. But we are a strong and caring community, and we will survive.
Support your local businesses. Care for your neighbors and friends. Care for those who are alone and in need. Buy some movie theatre popcorn from our friends Ray and Natalie, and their son, Atticus, the King of Main Street.
Be safe. Wash your hands. Stay home. Talk to your friends. Oh, and don’t eat rocks. Right, Atticus?
But reject fear, embrace knowledge, share hope, shine a light, and we will all be stronger for having faced these challenges and overcome them together.