Faces Of A Pandemic: Stories From Everyday North Texans
The story of the COVID-19 pandemic has been told largely through numbers. More than 1.3 million positive cases in the U.S. and counting, 40,000-plus in Texas. Then there are the 33 million people who've filed unemployment claims, more than 1.5 million of them in this state.
Behind each of those numbers, however, is a person — someone learning day-by-day to navigate a new reality.
Here, a cross-section of North Texans talk about how they’re thinking, feeling, grieving and even thriving amid the pandemic:
Registered ICU Nurse
“As an ICU nurse, critical care nurse, you take care of a lot of people. But, you're just taking care of a group of people right now with this virus that it doesn't matter what you do with them, they don't survive. And when they get to that point it's just a very gut-wrenching feeling to have to tell somebody's family and be a part of that FaceTime or what have you, to let them know that you didn't let their loved one die alone. You sat in the room with them until they took their last breath. Those moments stay with you forever.”
Quran School Administrator, Valley Ranch Islamic Center
“Actually, it's kind of good that I'm an introvert and I like to be at home so it sort of works out for me. But you know, sometimes you want you want to experience the Ramadan that everyone talks about. Muslims fast from right before the sunrises ‘til right after the sunsets, and when they break their fast with food and drink, it's like a big party. Almost every night for a whole month you have, it's not a rager, but it's like Thanksgiving dinner every night for a whole month, where you're surrounded by your friends and family. You do a lot of reflection and you renew family ties and work on your faith. And when I've experienced something like that, it's honestly, it's magical and sometimes transcendent, right? Because you feel like your cup is full, like completely full, because not only are you satiated so your physical needs are met, but you're surrounded by loved ones, so your emotional needs are met.”
Hannah Hargrove Roberts
Recently Lost Her Grandfather
“It's a very unique grieving. I mean, this is not textbook grief because you can't really even deal with it. Part of the grieving process, part of the loss process is that you get to feel this emotion with other people. And because right now we can't, it's not so much that we're bearing it, it's so much that we can't grieve because we can't do it together. I mean, I just kind of took that part of it for granted.”
Exoneree Who Founded The Re-entry Nonprofit Miles Of Freedom
"We're still talking about the same situation, innocent or guilty. There is an aspect of humanity that should be afforded, just by us being human. And medical assistance, it's just one of those things that should be across the board … And so you see these things and it shows you areas where we as a nation, we as a community, we've closed our eyes to individuals and demographics that we just don't want to connect to."
Author And Professor
"During this time of our quarantine and self isolation, what I've been thinking about is the way in which we're witnessing the end of the world. ... And I know that sounds apocalyptic. But Hannah Arendt reminds us that the world is something that we build together, through coming together and our actions and our conversations with one another. And to the degree that we stop coming together and stop having conversations and stop sharing our views with one another, we lose the world.”
COO, 24 Hour Club
“There are so many optimistic people at the club. When you go from drug addiction, from alcoholism, to a life of sobriety and a life of living right, there's a lot to be optimistic for. They get to have a place to live and start this new life. And it just so happens it's in the middle of a global pandemic.”
“I support the president. I support the governor. But I think the measures that they have taken and continued to take are far too stringent. … So I think the problem could easily solve itself by people taking personal responsibility. I'm fully convinced that people are wise enough to use good judgment, as they have in the past. That's how we made through all these other pandemics. I think God gave us a good mind and we need to listen.”
High School Senior
“It's definitely hitting hard. For some of my friends, it's more a sense of, 'I'm so bummed that I can't see you guys every single day.' And then there are others who are like, 'No, it's the end of the world. We only get to have certain experiences our senior year once and they have been taken away from us and we will never be able to have that.' And it really is a sense of loss for them, and I feel for that sense of loss. Some of them are very antsy, very anxious, others kind of like just dead state. So we're all taking it a little bit differently.”
Executive Director, Ma’ruf Dallas
"A lot of the folks that are applying for assistance right now. … They probably haven't ever needed to ask for assistance from an organization. In fact, we have some folks who really were embarrassed to ask because in their own words they said, 'We're used to donating to organizations like yours, not accepting assistance from organizations like yours.' ”
Owner, Salon A La Mode, Who Was Jailed For Reopening Early
“I have compassion, empathy. I don't want anyone to get hurt. I don't want anyone to get sick. But I feel like we're all adults. We're smart enough to take the precautions that we need. I understand the CDC recommendations. And if adults want to come in and get their hair done, that's up to them. That's their constitutional right. And for people to say that being a hairstylist is non-essential, that is ridiculous, because it's very essential to the hairstylist.
Community Movement Builders
“My job is to organize kids. I organize things for children. … I think this also has brought light to people who used to judge women who are stay-at-home mothers. Because this is an actual job. It's not an easy thing to do. And people actually judge people who stay at home and take care of their children and don't work. And the people who work feel like those people are less than because they stay at home. But now they're seeing the responsibility it takes to do that.”
Cares For Her Mother With Cancer
“It's been very emotionally, just heartbreaking, because I know that there's things that she needs that she cannot do for herself. … It's just hard, especially when you're used to being with and taking care of your parent. I mean, that's what my life has been for the past five years. I almost feel like I've lost a little bit of identity and it's rough. Thank God for technology, where she can at least see my face and I can see hers. But nothing beats actually just breathing their same air, you know?”
“We can talk about this stuff broadly and say, 'Well, the economy is tanking' but it's not just that. It's at the microcosmic level of society and culture. Like multigenerational family-owned businesses are gonna go under because of this. Individuals are hurting, small businesses are hurting, families are hurting. The consequences of our government's actions are far-reaching and dramatic and well beyond what they should have been.”
Philosophy Professor, University Of Texas At Dallas
“People talk about politics, economics, social change, environmental problems, as if they're just insoluble, right? They're unsolvable problems because you couldn't make change at the scale that you would need to solve those problems. But look at the scale of change we've gone through in the last six to eight weeks. When we set our mind to it, we can really accomplish a lot.”
Stephanie Gonzales Heard
Small Business Owner
“With my husband being at work as a nurse, he's there at 6:45 in the morning, which means he leaves home and doesn't return until about eight o'clock at night. I'm so proud of him. He is doing amazing things outside the house. But at home, I'm everything. I'm the do-it-all. By the time he's coming home, these kiddos are getting ready for bed to go to sleep. So it can be a bit tough.”
Rev. Peter Johnson
Veteran Civil Rights Activist
“If you look at the percentage of African Americans that have died from the virus compared to the percentage of completion in those areas, you see that something is fundamentally off balance. If you have a population where you have 15% of the population but 40% of the deaths, that ought to tell you that there is something fundamentally and structurally wrong with the way black America lives in this country.”
Licensed Professional Counselor
"One of the things that I found very curious was the people that I work with that had the most anxiety, they seem to be the most calm right now, which was very peculiar. Yet when I stepped back and I thought, it really did make sense. Because in that moment, someone who has anxiety always, like a generalized anxiety disorder, has a higher baseline, and they're always worried about 'What if this happens, what if that happens?' And when something does happen and they have been in therapy, they have the coping skills to be able to say, 'Okay, I can do grounding exercises, not minimizing or taking away the fear'."
“I think we have a war going on and unfortunately, there are casualties. Other things bring casualties. The flu brings casualties. Drivers in traffic accidents bring casualties. Life is difficult at times, but I think we need to hurry up and get this economy going before the economy itself becomes a casualty.”
Owner, Ruby Room Studio
“We had two locations and just as the pandemic was hitting, I decided now was the time to close the open-to-the-public location. So that was super-hard. I was really in a lot of turmoil about it. You know, once you build something, you don't really want to let it go.”
Owner, Double Wide Bar & Single Wide Bar
“We provide good times. We just do everything we can to make sure people have a good time. We try to throw the most memorable parties. For someone to smile makes my day. So we really miss doing that right now. We really, really miss doing what we do — serving our community."
"If there's a war, there's a famine or there's a catastrophe but my structure of hierarchy and structure of authority is intact, then at least I know how to navigate it — whether or not it's good for me. But if the structure of authority is no longer intact and I have to rely on myself and my own judgment, my own capacity to evaluate these things, but I don't know how, I'm not equipped to do it, that produces a kind of a sense of existential precarity and fear that motivates people to do truly extraordinary things. For good or ill. … I think those institutions that are unsound are having kind of the delta between their promises, or what they say and then what they can actually do and deliver for people. That difference is now becoming stark.”
Visit Dylan Hollingsworth's website for more stories from these everyday North Texans.