We asked readers to tell us about the moment they realized how different the world had become as a result of the pandemic. For some, it was the changes in their daily lives: empty store shelves, library and community center closings without notice, and empty streets. Changes in travel plans and being forced into quarantine was the changes for others.

Here is a selection of some of the replies we received. Some responses have been edited for clarity and length.

Nothing but carrots

As March 2020 progressed, I heard more and more about COVID, but it hit home when I went to Thriftys in Fairfield at the end of the month and found that the only vegetables available were a handful of carrots. I had a better understanding of what it would have been like to be rationed during WWII.

Travel world in chaos

The unlucky day, March 13th, is still fresh in my mind. Everyone in our travel agency was inundated with calls from frantic travelers trying to get home, as well as people who were anxious to cancel upcoming trips. It was almost impossible to reach any airlines or cruise lines to make arrangements.  I was on hold for four hours attempting to extend an insurance policy for a client whose flight back to Canada had been unexpectedly canceled. The travel world was in chaos! Our office usually celebrated the end of the week with a bottle of wine after work on Fridays. That day, I believe we started early!

So near yet so far

April 11, 2020. I was on my way to Saanich Peninsula Hospice to see my husband. I say “see” because that’s what I could think of: Look through the window, trying to have a phone call. The rooms are beautiful, all on the ground level and most with a view of the garden. His had a door to the outside. He was frail, confused and medicated. Trying to tug on the door to let me in.

“COVID,” I said. “COVID.” He shook his head and turned away, not really knowing why I wouldn’t just walk through the door.

After a few minutes, seeing him helped back to bed, I thought, I couldn’t bear staying any longer, so close but so far. As I walked back to my car on the hospice’s outside perimeter, I found that many of other family members peering through the windows, hoping for an answer, an acknowledgment.

I’m thankful for the wonderful nurses who stood by my husband when he was upset and tried to leave and simply begged to see me again. Their patience and understanding are admirable. My hope is that in the last moments of clarity, we will never have to hold loved ones apart again.

I did get in to say my goodbyes, but I’m not sure if he was aware of it. He was not really there anymore.

“Saskia Elias

End of a chapter in our lives

My COVID moment happened when I received a call from a friend telling me that the library would be closing the next day. Since her daughter worked at the library, she was aware of the pending closure.

This was horrifying news to me. I’m a voracious reader who spends a lot of time at the library. Reading was a significant everyday activity for me, and it was only going to become more with my world locking down.  There will be no more volunteer hours, grandchild visits, or book club. I’m a single senior living in a small bachelor apartment with no space for a personal library, so I didn’t have many unread books on hand. And I often immerse myself in “studying” various subjects, making frequent use of the inter-library loan service to obtain books not held by our regional system.  Alas, no more books about Abraham Lincoln, my latest fascination.

I had just received notice that some book hold requests had arrived and were ready to be picked up.

So, I dropped everything and ran to my local library branch to get those books before it closed. I was delighted to see five books waiting for me at the checkout, but I knew they wouldn’t last long with my increased free time.
“Kay Charbonneau”

COVID-19 hits home

On March 14, I was at the local casino for one of my daily visits. I went with cash in hand and hope in my heart.

I had won a nice jackpot the previous Saturday, so I was feeling pretty lucky. I didn’t win anything, but I had a nice time playing my “lucky” machines, chatting with others, and drinking some good coffee.

The next day, I heard of COVID-19 news, that we all had to return home and stay at home, and that the casino would close the next day.

Thank goodness, better days are on the horizon, and kudos to everyone who made the past year safer and easier for us all.
“Genie Carson”

Back home to a changed world

It was a slow and surreal COVID-19 moment for us. My son and I, both being fanatic mountain bikers, set out on March 13 for our annual trip to the deserts of Utah and Arizona. Friends advised us to stay at home, but we were unconvinced. What could possibly go wrong?

As soon as we got off one of the last Coho sailings, it felt like we’d entered into the Twilight Zone. Deserted highways, grocery stores that are out of stock, restaurants that are changing to takeout, and closed-up camping. Despite this, we managed to spend two weeks camping miles out in the desert and six days in Sedona at a friendly mom-and-pop motel. There are eighteen rooms, three or four of which are occupied, as well as tacos, pizza, and a partially stocked grocery store nearby. The riding was phenomenal but very few people were out.

We couldn’t find any organized camping along the way home, so we had to make do with open spaces next to the highway, where we were often joined by other travelers on their way home.

Early on March 28, as we approached the border in Osoyoos, the real moment arrived. We were the only vehicle there, and an agent asked us to back up and wait while she got masked and gloved. We had arrived home to a changed world.
“Randy Tannock”