COVID NYC Update: When did you realize the pandemic was going to change everything?

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) — Many of us had a moment, for most of us in March 2020, when we realized that COVID-19 had changed our lives forever.

Even though we’ve managed to move forward during the past year and adapt to a new normal, the memory of that dreadful moment of realization will always be with us. Please share your recollections of what that experience was like for you, and we may share your memories in this article.

Your stories:

Michele Adams: “When I flew back home on February 26, 2020, from Japan the world seemed to have changed. When we landed in Newark we were told to remain seated and two CDC officers in full PPE and two border patrol officers boarded our plane and asked for four people by name to follow them since they didn’t declare they had been in China.”

Anonymous: “Late December 2019, I experienced something I had never expected before. I didn’t know that I had the virus, but I felt like I was going to die.”

R. Morgan: “I realized our world had changed, would change, is changed when our learning institutions had to close down… I’ve only learned about a real-world pandemic through education so to actually live through one is very scary and I feel empathy for all history.”

Tony Gary: “March 9, 2020, was my last trip out of Hoboken on my bi-weekly visits to my little 2-year-old nephew in Queens. As always we had a great day running around Astoria; taking him to the park, enjoying snacks, and playing all day. Upon returning home… I realized the COVID-19 issue was getting worse. On March 16 here in Hoboken, the mayor shut everything down. This is when I realized my life going forward had changed.”

Christine Vosilla: “I was walking along Broadway and 34th Street at noon on Monday, March 16, 2020, and there was only one other person on the square. That was a first for me, after being in New York City for over 50 years. It was a very sad day.”

Antonella Di Stefano: “When I got on the one train heading to Penn Station at 5:30 pm on March 13 and I got a seat and didn’t have to stand. Then got on my LIRR train home and also got a seat.”

Robert Flannigan: “When I was watching an NBA game on primetime TV and the official came out on the court and stopped the game because some of the other team’s players had tested positive.”

Erica Kika Parra: “I realized COVID-19 was going to change everything when I started doing virtual live shows, workshops, and classes. Technology has played an important role during these COVID times, but I really do miss live shows with an actual audience.”

Edward Zelazny: “I realized it was a very serious situation when my mother passed of the virus in a New Jersey nursing home… That’s when it hit me that no one knew much about this virus and we are in for some bad times and uncharted waters.”

Waseem Manzoor: “So I decided to go to Northwell’s emergency room. I was wearing a mask and everyone in my neighborhood was giving me a strange look. Finally, after a four-hour wait, the doctor diagnosed that I had symptoms of COVID, but I did not fall in the category to do the test. They advised me to stay away from family members for 14 days. I came and home told my family to stay away because I had COVID. My family’s reaction was extraordinarily careful which made me cry. I was feeling helpless and lonely. When I remember those 14 days it shakes my whole body. It was a nightmare full of sorrow and bad dreams.”

Shena Babb: “I realized the change when my 1.5-hour drive was taking less than an hour.”

Anonymous: “My parents were on a cruise ship in New Jersey that had ‘sick passengers’… A week later they were notified that they all had the flu… I had told my parents that was a lie and made them quarantine for 14 days before they could babysit my daughter… That day in my high school I started to notice the adults and students wearing masks and taking an abundance of caution. That day will stick in my head last February as the day I realized that COVID would change everything.”

Auria Adams: “The moment that COVID-19 became real was when I got sick. I was working for NYC Transit as a train operator… I quickly called my crew assignment center and explained the situation. They told me to self-quarantine and someone would be contacting me for contact tracing. I remember a fear coming over me as the call ended. I remember looking at my husband and just thinking did I just infect my whole family?… I would like to say that that was the end of it I recovered and I didn’t infect anyone, but that didn’t happen. On April 17, 2020, my dad, 79, started coughing… Two days later I drove my dad to Orange Regional Medical Center and he was quickly admitted. That was the last time I was able to touch my father. He passed away on April 24 and now I live with that guilt that because of me he is not here.”

Natasha Tibball: “I began to realize this virus is no longer going to be something happening in other countries and is about to take hold here in the United States when all of the professional sports league seasons began falling like dominoes. I know there’s a substantial amount of revenue tied to those events and if those cancelations were deemed necessary, something more serious than I originally thought was happening.”

Brian: “I realized COVID would change us all when we heard about how fast people were getting infected.”

Francine Paczkowski: “It didn’t hit us that life was about to change again until we got to Orlando International Airport. Security lines were long like days after 9/11 long. I’d know. Ironically, my husband and I were on vacation in Walt Disney World on 9/11 and were there to witness the lockdown and later the implements of new boarding rules at the airport. It felt like 9/11 all over again and it was while sitting in the airport waiting for my flight that I’d realized COVID was going to change everything just as 9/11 did.”

Anonymous: “After recovering from COVID weeks later I decided it was time to venture out and go to the supermarket. For me it was surreal. There were only a handful of shoppers all wearing masks following the arrows in the aisles . The arrows told us which way to enter each aisle so no one would cross each other leaving. There were spacers on the floor which reminded you to social distance. When check out, you had to wait to be called to an empty register with a large plexiglass barricade in front. Seeing this for the first time actually brought tears to my eyes. I felt like I was in a sci fi movie.”

Susan Moyer: “Officially for me, the day that I realized Covid-19 was going to change everything was March 16th 2020. This was the last day that I was out in public. My husband and I had been watching all the news coverage on the Covid virus, but as with past viruses we had heard about, we thought that it was not going to affect us. How very wrong we were. I had gone to the grocery store a few days prior and I was in total disbelief to see the shelves almost bare. I could not find one box of pasta, the meats were all but gone, could not find soap, cleaning supplies were sparse and all that was left of paper products, was one obscure box of kleenix.
We would diligently watch the news on a daily basis in total disbelief of what we were watching. The number of covid cases climbing and the death toll rising. People being hauled off to hospitals being placed on ventilators with no family members allowed to be with them. It was terrifying and we made the decision then that we would stay within the confines of our home in hopes of remaining safe for there was a big scary invisible monster lurking outside of our four walls, one that could kill us. We did not want to die and especially not alone. I began researching the 1918 Pandemic and although times were different, the similarities were frightening.
My husband and I have stayed covid free but at a great price. Not seeing my family and friends has been emotionally and mentally trying. As the first anniversary of lock down approaches, I think of all the families who have lost loved ones. Over 500,000 souls have been lost and millions have been stricken. So I am grateful that we are still safe. I received my second Covid vaccine this week and on both occasions of getting the vaccine, I had tears in my eyes from both relief and hope that sometime in the near future this shall all be over.”

Jayson Holley: “One of my friends who was a party promoter passed away in January of 2020 without any notice of bad health. In February, when people at work was dropping like flies taking their sick days I knew it was turning serious. I was working 2 jobs, 7 days a week and about to fulfill a new contractual agreement with my other employer which is 3rd party transportation work then got notice from one of my employers they wanted to downsize because of health concerns. While working my other job in Lower East Side, I seen the streets turn barren. Supermarket, check cashing places and banks started forming lines outside and the lines kept getting longer and supplies were in scarcity. Places were shuttered and for the first time ever it took 30 minutes to drive from Eastern Queens to Manhattan with no traffic jams. Eeriness that you could see and sense in the air to stay inside and take extra safety precautions when going outside for short periods of time.”

Allison Weiner: “On March 13th, I was working at a local hotel 20 minutes near my home when we found out that the CDC declared a COVID-19 a global pandemic and the entire country, including where I worked to shut down. I then heard many stories of people waiting hours to get into the store and stock up on all essential items people needed and being sold out after minutes. At the end of that day, I found out I would be temporarily laid off from the job which then later became permanent. Not only this pandemic was a global health and safety crisis, but it became an economic crisis for many local businesses.”

Anonymous: “I work in midtown and my job set-up an account so that people could take Ubers to work as an alternative to public transportation. I realized things were getting bad when an Uber driver came to pick me up, but then refused to drive me from Jersey City to my office on 6th Avenue. He drove away, without me. This happened on multiple occasions after, but the first time was jarring and completely unexpected, especially since it’s right over the hudson.”

Deborah Gatti: “In March 14th 2020 when our first grandchild was born and we could not go to the hospital. No one was allowed in. If our son left our DIL he would not have been allowed back in. It was terrible. Here is the incredible life event and we could not be with our children. We knew them everything was different.”

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