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1 Year Into The Pandemic, These Are The Moments We Realized Everything Had Changed

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

One year - we are approaching the anniversary of the beginning of this pandemic in the United States. And though the vaccination effort has begun and some of us are even daring to hope that our days may begin to feel different as we head into spring, these facts remain. Two and a half million people are dead around the world, among them 500,000 Americans. And we continue to struggle with not just the effects of illness, but grief, unemployment, trauma and loneliness. It is a defining moment. We asked you to look back to share the moment last year when you realized the gravity of the virus. And here are some of your stories.

WILL MOPPIN: My name is Will Moppin (ph). I'm a sportswriter in Spokane, Wash. And I knew everything changed on Wednesday, March 11, 2020.

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MOPPIN: The night prior, I had been down in Las Vegas. I was covering the Gonzaga men's basketball team as they played in a sold-out arena, and they punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament. I flew back in the early morning hours the following day. When I got home to Spokane, I was exhausted. I took a nap. And when I woke up, checked my phone. And my Twitter timeline was completely different. Tom Hanks had tested positive, and the NBA's Rudy Gobert had tested positive. It was immediately clear that I was living in the pandemic world.

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DANIELLE DOHERTY: My name is Danielle Doherty (ph), and I live in New York, N.Y. So I work on Broadway, and the show I was working on was at previews. We were sold out every night. And my biggest concern is what dress I would wear to our opening night party and what Tony Awards we might be eligible for. And I think the moment that changed for me was March 11. An usher at a theater on Broadway tested positive for the coronavirus. And I remember thinking, yeah, that is probably going to shut us down.

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VIC CARPENTER: This is Vic Carpenter, county administrator for Kershaw County, S.C. Everything changed for me on the afternoon of March 6, 2020. I was at a conference in Durham, N.C., when I received a phone call from our state regulatory agency. Our small town of Camden was the location of the first confirmed case of COVID in the state of South Carolina. Within days, we had double-digit figures of COVID in the community.

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MARY MACKANALLEN: My name is Mary Mackanallen (ph). I'm from New Castle, Pa., where my family owns a small manufacturing business. In January of 2020, I sent in an order for N95 masks that we use for dust protection. And I heard back right away that the N95 masks were on backorder and not expected to be in for a month. And then all of a sudden, it hit me that this was going to be serious because people were stocking up on masks.

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ELISSA PRUHUNT: My name is Elissa Pruhunt (ph). I'm from New York, N.Y. And the moment that I realized that the pandemic was going to change everything, I was about four to six weeks pregnant, very sick, laying in bed with my husband. And he begins reading an article aloud. I found out that I would have to be giving birth alone through an article. About an hour later, maybe, maybe two, my OB-GYN's office calls me and tells me that my husband will also no longer be able to attend any of the future appointments with me. And the next one I had was the next day. So that was going to be the first time I saw my baby on ultrasound. And that was really devastating, too. So it was like a double whammy of, like, just really sad news.

RILEY GILL: My name is Riley Gill (ph), and I work at a hotel in Chicago. So the Sunday before lockdown began, I went out into the parking lot to make a phone call on my break. And for anybody who's never worked retail or food services, the line cooks are notoriously pretty intimidating, not easily shaken people. And I was out in the parking lot, and I saw two of our cooks in their aprons and their hats and everything, hugging and sobbing. And I got out of work a couple hours later, and I haven't been back since.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was Will Moppin, Danielle Doherty, Vic Carpenter, Mary Mackanallen, Elissa Pruhunt and Riley Gill.

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GARCIA-NAVARRO: The moment when everything changed for me was when I got onto a plane to my niece's wedding in another country, Panama. I didn't know then it would be the last flight I would take until now. When I arrived in Panama City on the last day in February, all the airport officials were wearing masks. Questions about exposure were being asked. The wedding was joyful, but we were all worried about what it meant. We would soon find out. And upon return to the U.S. a few days later, it was striking that no American airport officials were taking any precautions. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.