Reflections on 2020

Thu, 12/24/2020 - 6:00pm

2020 has been a year like no other. The Block Island Times asked readers and followers of the paper to share their stories and experiences over the past year.

The following stories were edited for clarity and length.

Carey and Chris Greggila

Like many “COVID-couples” as March turned into April and May, we realized we had to cancel our wedding. We planned to get married on July 4th weekend, in Connecticut, outside on the beach. My now-husband Chris’s family was travelling from Ohio, where we live, and everyone was so excited to enjoy summer in New England and see my hometown. When we canceled, we accepted defeat, continued staying at home, baking bread, working remotely, and doing the other new hobbies and routines we’ve all found in the pandemic.

In fact, we weren’t planning on doing anything on our “old” wedding date. A few days before the holiday weekend, we looked at one another and said, “Well, we should do something.” At the last minute we followed my parents on their weekly voyage to Great Salt Pond. They’d been going every weekend, which I’d say was because of the pandemic and fresh air and the social-distanced-nature of being on a boat, but truly they go there every weekend of every summer anyway.

In a stroke of luck, we found one property available, above the My Oyster shop, across from Crescent Beach. Travelling from Cleveland, it felt like an oasis – and it was easy access for my father to pick us up in the dinghy for nightly mudslide cruises.

Block Island has always been there for our family. My grandfather’s oar has been hanging at The Oar since the 1970s. As kids, my brother and I slept on the deck of our family boat until we heard “andiamo” in the morning. When we got too big for that arrangement, our family rented a cottage each summer with our close friends, the Pepins. We’d somehow always manage a walk to town at high-noon on the hottest day of the year, with Del’s as an incentive for surviving.

On the night of our canceled wedding, we made reservations for tapas on the Atlantic Inn lawn. At 5:30 p.m., when our original wedding ceremony was scheduled, clouds rolled in from the north, coming from right over the Connecticut shoreline where our wedding was supposed to take place. Our wedding on the beach would have been a complete wash out.

My now-husband Chris and I laughed and laughed and kept drinking our champagne as the friendly hostess moved us out of the rain.

Our wedding was canceled, but we are so incredibly grateful that we found ourselves on Block Island this summer.

When the cannon would boom each night as the sun set, my grandfather always said “There’s another one they can’t take away from us.” It’s as true this year as it’s ever been.

Megan Otieno

My 2020 Block Island story involves the Boston Marathon and a very unique virtual version of that storied race held on Block Island this past fall. As the foggy morning of Sept. 8 dawned, I toed an invisible starting line near the Red Bird Liquor Store and set off on a solo 26.2 mile “Run Around the Block” in an effort to complete my 11th consecutive Boston Marathon. With only my husband following on his bike I set off on two loops of the lower portion of the island followed by an out-and-back up Corn Neck Road to a finish line very unlike the one I encounter each year on Boylston Street in Boston. This finish line was the dunes leading to Baby Beach where I promptly took off my running shoes and ran into the water. While I missed the cheering spectators, fellow runners, and overall excitement of Marathon Monday, this is one marathon I will never forget. 

Arlene Tunney and Ken Maxwell

After a delightful month in warm, sunny Aruba we returned to Florida for a week or two in early March. The news about the Covid-19 virus was not good so we decided to high-tail it north to go home. We had driven south and planned to stop for a few days to visit old friends in Virginia Beach. We only spent one night there, as the news kept growing worse. We pushed to get home as soon as possible, which was Mar. 15. 

Shortly after arriving on the island we received a message that my cousin’s hubby, a New York state Supreme Court Justice, was in Sarasota Hospital with the virus. They had been vacationing in Florida. He died on Apr. 6 alone. She was in quarantine and not allowed to visit the hospital nor head north. Their sons were able to arrange to bring the body back north for burial for about $10,000. On Easter Monday he was buried in New Jersey in a virtual funeral with only four people present.

We hunkered down on the island, without leaving, for about four months, until we had to go off for a medical appointment. Our modus operandi has been to go in the car, and stay in the car to avoid the unmasked hordes on the boat. We’ve dined out when we could do it outside, a little too cold now. We’ve appreciated the ability to do “take-out” from our various restaurants and Pots & Kettles home delivery. Stop & Shop and Belmont have been terrific for deliveries of stuff we couldn’t get here.

Now, in the dead of winter, we anxiously await the miracle vaccine. We have lost another friend to the virus in Chicago. He had been recovering and then had a blood clot end his life. We hope and pray that 2021 will bring renewed health to us all.

John Hopf

20/20 is a term used to describe perfect vision. It is also said that hindsight is clearer than foresight.

Time magazine, in hindsight, has declared the year 2020 as the worst ever.

The following occurs to me:

On the pandemic: No one seems ready to hold the government of China responsible for the “perfect storm” they have released on the free world, a pandemic that is projected to claim 500,000 American lives by June of 2021 (more Americans that were killed in combat in WWII) by allowing a virus that was being weaponized in a military laboratory in Wuhan, China, to be released.

Covid-19 has decimated the capitalist economies of the world, it is threatening our religious institutions by preventing us from gathering together to celebrate our faiths, destroying small businesses and our educational systems and threatening our democracies.

Is China exempt from criticism because we have become so dependent on their manufacturing of our small appliances and TVs? Manufacturing that was moved offshore because of their cheap labor and lack of environmental regulations, or do they somehow hold some leverage over our politicians?

Isn’t it China, not the Russians, that has become our biggest adversary and threat to the U.S. economy?

In politics, in 2020, have we been misled by the media in our choice of leaders? Their hatred of “The Donald” and their protection of the liberal candidates, who it turns out may have financial connections with the Chinese?

Are we not dependent upon China for our pharmaceuticals, our consumer goods, our auto parts and almost every area of production, even in basic industry?

Hopefully, we will see the light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel by mid-2021 after the arrival of vaccines to curb the growth of the virus released upon us by the Chinese.

The USA is currently the largest producer of petroleum products in the world. As such we currently enjoy relatively low gas prices at the pump. How long can we expect to enjoy this under the new regime and the “Green Machine?”

What impact on the economy will a federally-mandated $15 per hour minimum wage have on our service and tourist industries ?

I think we should all be concerned about these issues as we leave 2020 behind us and face the New Year in our fractured state of mind, Covid abused and reeling. I know that I am worn out by the restrictions of social distancing and facing a bleak Christmas and New Year’s without the comfort of friends and family. China, you couldn’t have devised a better weapon to demoralize and weaken the Western World.

Wow. Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest I feel a lot better. Writing is cathartic, especially when you’re experiencing Covid Cottage Fever!