FREEPORT, ILLINOIS — If any of you were out and about and made it over to the “big stores” in Freeport over the weekend you probably noticed the parking lots and stores themselves were absolutely packed with people. Saturday saw hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people between two stores, thousands throughout the day.
As we watched the crowds pile in throughout the beautiful sunny Saturday, we couldn’t help but wonder about the narrative between government, media, and both sides of the people’s voice with what we actually see in society, and the published results of it.
It wasn’t like this back in March when COVID fears began.
On March 18, exactly two months ago today, we published 26 images of what the city of Freeport looked like around town. We wrote this to accompany them;
“Traffic in the streets and the number of people out and about during the day is slightly less than usual. Noticeable though, especially in these empty images below. Evenings are quiet in town. It is like a peaceful nervousness with everyone, for their own reason, simply waiting in unison. It’s an odd feeling. Hardly anyone out at night. Mornings start off the same. The city just isn’t as loud waking up, you don’t hear it, it’s quieter and very noticeable as well. This is lunchtime in Freeport, Illinois.”
The images showed Freeport at Noon. Streets and parking lots were empty, barren, with hardly a soul in sight.
This past Saturday we couldn’t tell the difference between life 3 months ago, and life on Saturday. Aside from everyone wearing masks, of all types, and in some cases gloves, there really wasn’t a difference in crowd size at all.
Do masks make people feel more comfortable?
Is this the indicator that society can move forward? That thousands of people can congregate in one place?
They have been.
Yet on Saturday, what seemed to be the busiest shopping day of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the Stephenson County Health Department reported its first coronavirus death in the county. A person in their 70’s lost their life to the virus, the Health Department said. It is hard not to ponder from a humanity standpoint what that could mean.
How is it possible that thousands of people can pack two stores, more that what appeared to be on any other day over the past two months, yet it is the very day someone loses their life to the thing that has kept us all away from one another? How can that be?
Are these people heartless? Rebels? Did we just witness thousands of people who are utterly careless about the lives of people around them?
It can’t be.
We saw people we know at the store. Good, giving, caring local people from our community. People we have known for over twenty years. They would never intentionally, or unintentionally, risk doing anything to jeopardize the health and safety of another. Never.
So how does one come to terms with life, death and COVID-19 and the public moving forward still? How do we as a people find common ground in all this and end the fighting?
Unfortunately, or fortunately, we can’t say what your answer might be, but we can say that in all situations throughout the history of mankind, life always goes on. If truth be told, we always wish it to go on as well. Even in our own personal darkest moments, we want the rest of life around us to go on and prosper. We wish happiness on the life we leave.
Since this began, in our view, and speaking from our area only, it has seemed the entire time from March 18 until today May 18, that everything we are doing together as humans, including anything improper you may have seen over the past two months, (ie; masks not being worn properly, people in groups, etc…) has actually worked well to keep everyone as safe as they can be.
We see people, even the thousands of them all congregating together in one place, all looking out for one another as they carry on with life. We see people taking care of themselves, and those around them pretty good. And the data, even with the sad passing of a person in our county, still seems to agree with that.
As we look forward to the re-opening of life and small business, it is life itself that encourages us. With the exception of a very few bad apples in society, and viruses that threaten us, humankind is all in unison about the preservation of itself. In general, no one wishes another harm or ill will. We all want the best for each other. It is probably not said enough actually.
While there is no justification for a death, we do hope that we can all find the thousands of reasons that justify life. We hope we can find it within us to enjoy each other’s company again, because we certainly haven’t done a good job of showing it to one another in conversation lately.
After all, even those in death would want that for us.
Stay safe out there.
And bodies turn to ash,
But life will always go on”
— Mouloud Benzadi