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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Covid-19 and the Blizzard of 78'

I don't remember too much about the blizzard of 1978. I was a senior at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and have hazy memories of being snowed in and my studio art classes being canceled. I remember opening the door to our apartment as Dorothy did when she landed in Oz and seeing snow piled high past the windows of the building.

One thing I know for sure is how people talked about "the blizzard" for years afterwards. People would recall where they were for the great blizzard, the amount of snow they had, whether their car was stranded on the highway, what they did (walked down to West Medford Square, to the spa or Johnny Foodmaster). One thing is crystal clear. Without exception, people who experienced the Blizzard of 78, briefly had their lives were upended with a forced and focused period of time at home. No work, no diversions. After using considerable energy to shovel themselves out (I don't recall many snow blowers in those days) people went out pulling their children on sleds. They stood on the streets while neighbors chatted and marveled over the vast quantity of snow. Time stopped for a few days and people had a chance to step back from their lives and experience life differently.

Fast forward to 2020. Covid-19 is no snowstorm and it won't be plowed away. This is no snow day, but in one important way I see a similarity. As I walk on my own or at acceptable social distance from a friend, there are so many walkers strolling outdoors. Outside the weather is spring like which prompts stir-crazy families the perfect opportunity to walk together. Some young dads or moms carry their babies close in carriers while other movement craving individuals power-walk on their own. Individuals stand with their fishing poles dipped in the small lake while lots of dog owners are being walked by their sniffing canines. Bikers speed by in their day glow jackets. It's downright idyllic.

Unlike the Blizzard of 78, The Covid outbreak of 2020 forces people to be careful to maintain their social distance. People express greetings cautiously and it is clear that these walks offer an escape from everyone's current reality. I wish it was the shoveling out after a blizzard that has all of us walking to the rhythm of our sound clouds, instead of the drums of a looming contagion, but on this earliest of spring days just for a moment I like to imagine that this is a time to take a deep breath and hold that breath for as long as we can; during this uncertain period before the storm.

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