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The Day Coronavirus Started

Hello there! Welcome to the first-ever blog post for 2XB Media.

It is perhaps the understatement of this new millennia that the year 2020 will be forever associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. As surely as in billiards where a cue ball alters the trajectory of other pool balls it impacts, the coronavirus surely sent our collective worlds spinning in new and unanticipated directions.

The most recent event that many ascribe a similar situation occurred after the terror attacks of September 11th, 2011. In my personal case, on September 10th I was an Air Force reservist contemplating a complete transition away from the military and into civilian life. My personal trajectory was changed as I instead resumed an active-duty military career that would not conclude for another 15 years.

If I had to illustrate my contemplation of Covid-19 in one image it would be with the below 360-degree photo I snapped on March 15, 2020. This was the first weekend mass in the diocese of San Antonio, Texas that parishioners could not be physically present due to the enactment of social distancing measures.

The image is of the 11:00am Spanish-language mass at St. Peter the Apostle Church being celebrated by Father Rudy in front of empty pews (this is a 360-degree photo. Use your mouse or finger on your mobile device to scroll it around). I am filming and live streaming the mass to an online audience. March 15th has thus become for me the indelible, personal milestone of when coronavirus “started.”

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Like Covid-19, events such as the Challenger space shuttle disaster in 1986 and the assassination of JFK in 1963, are permanently etched in our national experience. A common reaction for these types of ground-shaking events is that Americans express a remembrance of where they were “when it happened.”

Unlike Pearl Harbor, JFK, or 9/11, Covid-19 does not have a recognized date marking a cataclysmic event. Its history has instead involved a gradual unfolding of events, more of a phenomenon. Such as March 15th marks when coronavirus became “real” to me, every person will have their own date and circumstance of when they reached a similar point.

I happened to be in Arizona on 9/11, and the first church service I attended in Phoenix the following Sunday was filled to capacity. People knew their personal journeys had been changed and were seeking guidance and reassurance at its onset. In my case I was awaiting orders recalling me back to a military now engaged in a global war. I often contrast this situation to March 15th where people in Texas were on a path of similar magnitude, except their church was empty.

Except that it wasn’t. As stark and surreal as the photo of Father Rudy may outwardly appear, it is instead cloaked in triumph. Beginning that weekend, the parish vigorously sought to maintain a connection with parishioners through virtual means. Central to this effort was the live casting of masses. All services that Sunday were in fact well-attended as attested by the audience count the online platform made available in real-time. As it turned out, live casting also made virtual attendance possible to many homebound seniors who had otherwise been unable to attend church services, many for an extended period of time.

Thus, while the manner and delivery of church attendance had changed for St. Peter’s, possibly forever, the community itself has endured. This, I am confident, will be the concluding message future historians will write of the American experience with Covid-19.

 

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