The Night It All Changed

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AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

I’ll never forget the irony of it. Sitting in the newsroom preparing Friday’s edition.

Friday the 13th, as it were, and things were getting out of hand, fast. Not in the creepy, slasher flick way, but as the news continued to come in it was evident things were changing in a big way.

That day, I was in charge of laying out the sports section. Typically, each story gets its own headline. The uniqueness of the day’s news was reflected in the layout. I needed only a single headline at the top of the page to sum up what was happening.

“Canceled.”

COVID-19 had already made its way to the U.S. by that point, but the enormity of it really sunk in as the NBA and NHL postponed (then later canceled) their seasons, the PIAA postponed (then later canceled) its winter championships, and, perhaps most shockingly, the NCAA canceled its winter championships, including the wildly popular men’s basketball tournament.

It’s been a year since that fateful day, but it seems like it’s been longer. So much has changed since then.

For starters, I’m writing this from home instead of in the newsroom (which exists now as only empty space). In the long run, we sincerely hope that’s good news for our readers-and those of our sister site, D9and10Sports.com-something that likely wouldn’t have happened without the pandemic.

Teleworking, and remote learning, have become far more common in the last year. Once thought of as a rarity, the pandemic has shown many employers that teleworking is not only possible but effective as well.

Conversely, the COVID mitigation efforts instituted in many states regarding gathering and capacity restrictions led many businesses (particularly bars and restaurants) to shutter their doors for large parts of the year (some permanently).

A number of new terms and phrases entered the lexicon, perhaps none more prevalent as “social distancing.” “Two weeks to flatten the curve” was popular through March and early April, but disappeared quickly. Most of us have been through the contact tracing process, and many have had to quarantine at some point in the last year.

Zoom, Teams and other virtual meeting spaces have allowed businesses and governments to continue operating as close to normal as possible, though some creative hackers made things interesting at times.

Of course “normal” means something different now than it did then. I often think back to that day, March 12, 2020 to see if I can remember anything other than getting that sudden realization. The understanding, for me, came when March Madness was canceled. That’s when it hit home that things were going to be different. Not just for a couple of weeks, but for a long time.

It’s been a long year and I think 2021 will be a long year as well. Though vaccines are available, the distribution has been slow. We still don’t know if it will be a lifetime vaccination or become another version of the annual flu shot. That the vaccine is here is a good thing, and hopefully, it helps us get back to some sense of what life was like pre-pandemic. Something akin to the days before March 12 . . . the night everything changed.