By Willa Reed
We all remember those initial feelings of mere annoyance toward staying inside for what we thought was a temporary quarantine. As the lockdown dragged on, slightly longer and then slightly longer each time an emergency alert pinged on our phones, we watched what appeared to be an apocalypse take root in our lives (toilet paper shortages, gloves and masks everywhere). We slowly watched as people lost jobs, experiences, and loved ones, these losses becoming higher and higher with each passing day.
I remember the days of Facetime calls with my friends, trying to reassure them that this would all be over soon (and trying not to cry in frustration myself). I’ll never forget the night when I found out that my senior year would be online. Life changed so quickly, so drastically, and in a fashion that was so out of my control that I wanted to scream.
Two years later, the pandemic is still present, though not raging. The storm has quieted for the most part, and we subsequently find ourselves in the position to process and reflect upon a multi-year international crisis. Despite the pain and struggle of the past two years, there are lessons to be learned, lessons that can empower us to redefine a more interconnected, mindful notion of normal.
The pandemic affected lives everywhere, internationally, nationally, and locally. Scotts Valley community leaders were kind enough to share their COVID experiences, and how the pandemic has shaped them and our town as a whole.
We never realized how much we needed interaction in person until it was stripped from us so suddenly.
“COVID reinforced my opinion that technology has its limits and people need to be around others for society to function,” said Scotts Valley Police Chief Steve Walpole Jr. “A video chat with friends and family is fine, but you miss out on something when you aren’t in the same space with them.”
I certainly remember the happy tears that were shed at hugging my grandma for the first time in a year after the vaccine came to fruition. It’s safe to say we’re all glad to see Zoom take a back burner as face-to-face communication becomes normal again.
Scotts Valley School District Superintendent Tanya Krause reflected on the constant adjustments that characterized the pandemic, and the importance of unity: “My wish is that people would be more accepting of current life circumstances and work better together, rather than against each other.”
Scotts Valley Mayor Donna Lind believes that, despite the setbacks, COVID has had some positive effects on the community as a result of individual introspection. “COVID has helped me develop a different sense of purpose, being able to encourage and be a shoulder for those that are hurting,” she said.
The desire to help others through such a difficult time was a common theme among community members.
Gail Pellerin, former Santa Cruz County Clerk and a candidate for state Assembly, remembers when she was the only County Clerk’s office open in the state who was issuing marriage licenses and performing weddings as the pandemic was in full swing.
“I was so honored to be able to be there for so many couples seeking some semblance of normal in a global pandemic,” Pellerin recalled.
Danny Reber, executive director of the Scotts Valley Chamber of Commerce, reflected on how local businesses gave back to the community during COVID, even while they were suffering themselves.
“What’s special about our community is that people came together during the pandemic and fires in a way we had never seen before,” Reber said;.
He recalled how Bruno’s Bar and Grill served $10,000 worth of food to the Moose Lodge during the CZU fires, or how locally owned Togo’s restaurants refused to lay off employees, despite the drastic drop in business.
Instead of letting trauma divide us, our community united in the face of hardship.
COVID has forced us all to change the fundamental ways we perceive ourselves and the world around us. Through grit, unity, and self-reflection, we stand two years strong from COVID, and can take pride in and glean hope from the more welcoming, positive community forming before us.
Willa Reed, who grew up in Scotts Valley, is a freshman at UCLA.