What can I say that hasn’t yet been said?
Keep in mind, as I write this I just finished a last read-through of the issue that I’ve been working and re-working over and over for the last two weeks. So you’ll have to read the whole thing cover to cover, get all the great perspectives and insights from a range of Charlotte residents on how COVID-19 is impacting them and their communities, then ask yourself: What can Ryan say that hasn’t already been said?
Not much, but I’ll try.
I can’t even think of a fitting adjective to describe the last two weeks and what’s occurred since March 10, when we delivered our 2020 Spring Guide only to watch as each event we included was canceled within a matter of days. That feeling will stick with me for some time (I spent three days on that guide!), and certainly inspired how I approached our special COVID-19 issue, which will be delivered to hundreds of doorsteps tomorrow, and will be delivered to some of the outdoor spots that we can still get to.
Rarely does one see a news story that changes as regularly as the COVID-19 crisis, with updates rolling in one on top of the other. Multiple times now I’ve posted a story on our website with info from a press conference that’s outdated because there have been two other press conferences in the time it took me to write it.
So how are you supposed to cover such a story in a bi-weekly paper, knowing that any effort to provide up-to-date information is futile? First off, you save those efforts for the internet.
For print, we decided to go a little deeper, speaking with folks who live and breathe the scenes we cover the closest — arts, music and food — to see how they’re living with the impacts of an unexpected hiatus from everything.
As for the news section, I spoke with a Charlotte resident who’s living with end-stage cystic fibrosis, perhaps one of the most vulnerable people in our present situation. Our intern Lillian Taylor took to the campus at UNC Charlotte to discuss the fears and concerns of students and professors as the university ordered everyone out of its residence halls. Rhiannon Fionn took a critical look at our local board of education’s response to a crisis that left them overwhelmed and unsure of what to do next.
Taken together, all of these stories spread across Charlotte’s different communities tell the tale of a city taken by surprise. When that happens, the cliché that many people cling to is the potential for chaos — that the strings of society will unravel and we will eventually reach a place where it’s every person for themself.
That’s a narrative built on watching too many movies, in my opinion. Sure, you see the greed and self-centered behavior of some folks come out in a time like this, hoarding groceries unnecessarily or ignoring orders to practice social distancing because it’s inconvenient or boring.
History shows, however, that these are anomalies. In times of crisis, a vast majority of humans want to help. It’s our nature, once we believe our own families and loved ones to be safe and secure, to want to reach out and see who else needs a hand.
This is especially true in the tight-knit communities covered within our pages. In our new issue, you’ll find stories about musicians helping musicians despite their own cancelations and lost wages, food and beverage workers coming together in what is arguably the industry’s darkest hour, artists adapting to the new normal, and so many of these people doing so with an optimistic attitude.
This crisis is a little different than most, as being there for others means separating yourself from them as best you can, and that can be challenging for the proactive among us who feel the need to get out and help someone. Suppress that desire!
Instead of sitting at home and waiting for things to pass, however, so many Charlotte residents are still being proactive about working online to benefit those hurting the most.
I don’t mean for this all to sound like a naïve, pie-in-the-sky ideal. Things are bleak, there’s no getting around it. The truth is, things will only get worse before they get better, and as I send our paper out on a Tuesday, I can’t even pretend to know what Friday will look like.
What I do believe, however, is that come what may, Charlotte’s creative community and the city as a whole will only continue to adapt and face the storm in lockstep, rather than letting anyone struggle alone. All we got is us.