⏱️ = Six-minute read (or so)
“Every day, I get asked whether I plan to run for office again. This Sunday at noon on KET, you’ll hear more about that. Stay tuned.” — Charles Booker on Twitter. (Think Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, up for reelection in 2022, has seen that tweet?)
1. Would you be so kind and nominate two people for me to interview?
2. Tomorrow is March 13, a year since LMPD officers shot and killed Breonna Taylor in her own apartment during a bungled raid.
So many of us have read so many words about Breonna Taylor over the past 12 months, but the piece that has affected me the most is this week’s LEO cover story, which includes Taylor’s sister, Ju’Niyah Palmer, in her own words, accompanied by several old and faded photographs. In one, Taylor smiles at six months old; in another she’s 12, standing in the kitchen while smirking and wearing an orangish vest, zipped to her chin, over an orange T-shirt. Palmer talks about weddings and Easter celebrations and her sister’s Easy-Bake Oven. She told LEO, “But the one thing about Breonna, she would never stay the night at her friend’s house. She would always come home. All the time. She just wasn’t big on staying the night over at other people’s houses. She just wanted to be at home in her own comfort.”
3. I reached out to several local medical professionals about the past year. (It has been only ONE year, correct?)
When you think back to the beginning of the pandemic, what specific moment or memory stands out?
“We had to keep doctors and nurses at home in case other doctors and nurses got sick or died.” — Dr. Russ Farmer, associate professor of surgery and assistant dean at the U of L School of Medicine
“Shutting nursing homes down. I haven’t touched my elderly mother in over one year.” — Dr. Darryl Kaelin, professor and chief of physical medicine and rehabilitation at U of L
“I was terrified to leave the house because I have a son with a chronic lung disease.” — Dr. Meredith Sweeney
“Seeing my first patient with COVID and realizing she didn’t fit a sinus infection or a lung infection, and that this virus was so much more than that.” — Dr. Monalisa Tailor, primary care physician with Norton Healthcare and president of the Greater Louisville Medical Society
“The day restrictions were placed on physicians for the treatment of non-emergent conditions. I never thought I would see a day in my career when an event or situation would limit my ability to provide patient care to those in need.” — Dr. Scott Kuiper, orthopedic surgeon
“I remember coming home from a long day at the hospital or clinic and stripping my clothes off to get in the shower right away so I didn’t contaminate my home. I remember my six-year-old asking me one morning, ‘What is a virus?’ I hope I explained it well.” — Dr. Jeremy Clark, professor of oculoplastic surgery at U of L
What’s the most difficult day or moment you’ve had during the pandemic?
“Coming home after working in the hospital and living apart from my family for the first portion of the pandemic. I broke down the first time I had to read a bedtime story to my son while sitting on the other end of the hall to avoid close contact. He didn’t understand why he couldn’t touch me even though I wasn’t sick.” — Dr. Farmer
“Being diagnosed with COVID and not knowing how sick I might get.” — Dr. Kaelin
“I have had several patients hospitalized with orthopedic injuries who also were diagnosed with COVID. Unfortunately, several of these patients passed away during their hospitalization. To make matters worse, our hospitals had to restrict visitors for the safety of other patients, so these patients often did not have any family at bedside.” — Dr. Tyler Keller, orthopedic surgeon
“My most difficult day was in July. I was sitting with an elderly male patient and discussing his condition. He began to cry out of the blue. It turned out, his wife had passed a few days prior from COVID-19 without him being able to visit her and hold her hand or tell her goodbye. He didn’t know how to handle her passing, and he was trying to keep going to his appointments as usual. We sat and talked for 30 minutes about their life together.” — Dr. Clark
What’s the best day or moment you’ve had during the pandemic?
“Watching my 93-year-old mother survive COVID. Also, seeing my wife get vaccinated.” — Dr. Kaelin
“When I received my vaccine I felt like a level of stress was removed from my life. I knew that the pandemic was far from over, but I felt safer and better prepared to help other people.” — Dr. Julie S. Lee
How has the past year changed you?
“I’ve learned healthy stress-relieving techniques like meditation and exercise. I have a deeper appreciation for the little nuances of family life and my children. Spending all that time with them gave us insights into each other and family time that we wouldn’t have had otherwise.” — Dr. Sweeney
“Without sounding too cliche here, I think it’s important to realize that the world as we know it can change in an instant.” — Dr. Keller
“I appreciate the fragility and fleeting sense of our time on Earth more.” — Dr. Clark
What part of your new routine will you continue?
“Frequent check-ins on all of my friends and loved ones. Also, we have pared down a lot of activities like kids’ sports because meetings couldn’t happen. This new pace of life is FAR superior, and I don’t think we will ever go back.” — Dr. Farmer
“Walking the dog.” — Dr. Kaelin
“Zoom meetings! I love the convenience and efficiency.” — Dr. Kuiper
“I think I will always stay updated on the latest CDC recommendations. I didn’t really pay much attention weekly to their headlines or alerts. Now, I am always checking their latest updates, projections and recommendations.” — Dr. Clark
In one word, what is your biggest hope right now?
Normalcy, resilience, unity, vaccination.
In one word, what is your biggest fear right now?
Ambivalence, anti-vaxxers, complacency, depression, mutation, variants.
Anything else you’d like to say?
“We promise we are trying our best to keep you alive and healthy so that, one day, you don’t have to spend your life bouncing between COVID fears and Zoom fatigue. Get your vaccines and, when you can, hug your doctor. We care about you more than you’ll ever know.” — Dr. Farmer
4. We dedicated last year’s Best of Louisville to the 2020 class of local high school seniors, and our summer issue included interviews with almost 400 of them. This week, I checked back in.
Last year, I asked this question: “If you could have a traditional ending to your senior year of high school, but you had to start over from the beginning of the school year, would you do it?” How would you answer now?
When you think back to the beginning of the pandemic, what specific moment or memory stands out?
“I was only able to see my friends socially distanced at a park. I hated not getting to hug everyone.” — Lydia Holland, Assumption grad, University of Cincinnati student
“The 2020 NCAA tournament being canceled. It was the first big event I had been looking forward to that was officially gone.” — Megan Osting, Sacred Heart grad, Xavier University student
“The day I walked out of my high school for the last time, I remember thinking: This would be cheesy — if we’re not coming back. And then I left. I would later think of this moment as both prescient and overwhelmingly sad.” — Maddie Stokes, Sacred Heart grad, University of Virginia student
“I was working at Outback as a hostess. On the TV, Donald Trump announced that the country would be closing off flights in and out of Europe for 30 days.” — Willow Harpole, Ballard grad, Morehead State University student
“I remember going out with some friends to eat dinner at McDonald’s. It was our first pandemic outing in a parking lot — with many to follow.” — Joseph Falcon, Shawnee grad, Centre College student
“Getting the call that my senior baseball season was over. A moment all athletes wait and hope for was stripped from us spring athletes.” — Stephen Ruddy, Martha Lane Collins grad (Shelbyville), works as a technician for the U.S. Navy
“Never in a million years did I imagine my graduation in my living room. While it was upsetting at the time, I’m proud of myself now. I’m excited to tell my kids how I graduated high school at home in the middle of a pandemic.” — Kirsten Butler, Manual grad, Western Kentucky University student
“I was a class officer, and we had a meeting after school that day — March 13 — to try to figure out some contingency plan in case events had to be postponed or canceled. The last thing I remember from that day was saying goodbye to my fellow officers. Patrick, the president, asked us all, ‘Do you think we’ll be back?’ At the time, I was so sure that we would. I took one last look at the building I called home for four years, not knowing that I wouldn’t get to enter it again for the remainder of my senior year.” — Aanika Garre, Manual grad, University of Cincinnati student
“When we all thought we would only be out of school for three weeks, instead of one, for spring break. Everyone thought it was so weird that they were canceling school for a virus.” — Kayden Rapson, Jeffersontown grad, University of Kentucky student
“The huge decline in passengers at the airport, as well as the canceled flights. The airport was like a ghost town.” — Graham Waggener, Martha Lane Collins grad (Shelbyville), U of L student who works for AvFlight (Allegiant Airlines)
“I honestly kinda miss the beginning of the pandemic. Life was so much simpler. We all didn’t know how long it would last, so we did what we could with the online learning and Zoom calls. I had never felt so close to my family and friends. I had a routine that I stuck to every day, and it was nice not to feel like you were missing out on anything because literally nothing was happening around the world. Everyone was so connected throughout the beginning of the pandemic, despite living in isolation.” — Zayne Isom, Manual grad, Northern Kentucky University student
“The time I found out that the last weekend of my last senior show, Peter and the Starcatcher, was canceled. Right about 4:30 p.m. March 10.” — Camden Hardesty, Floyd Central grad (Floyds Knobs, Indiana), Indiana State University student
“I remember how I didn’t say bye to my friends that last day in school. I just shouted a quick ‘see ya later.’” — Maura Maguire, Presentation Academy grad, currently working at the Louisville Zoo and taking JCTC online classes
5. Last March 13 — Friday the 13th — I left the Louisville Magazine office in the late-afternoon gloom and walked down a deserted Baxter Avenue/Bardstown Road, hardly a car or person in sight. This would have been strange any day, any hour, but it was especially disturbing because the following afternoon was supposed to be the annual St. Paddy’s Day parade. People should have already been drinking light beer out of those shamrocked aluminum pints that show up at the Irish bars — I like to call the trio FlaMollyShea’s — this time of year. But the parade had already been canceled. The bars were dark. Everything was. People really hadn’t started wearing masks yet, and I remember holding my breath (as if that were sufficient protection against the virus) while passing a sole soul smoking on the sidewalk. At Oneness Sneaker Boutique, a piece of paper taped to the window announced that the store hoped to open back up soon. In the meantime, to receive a discount on the website I could use a promo code: FUCKCOVID.
A little something from the LouMag archive.
“It’s striking. The first thing I see looking at this picture, sadly, is that these healthcare workers aren’t wearing masks, and what must that be like.” — Dr. Farmer
“The title is ‘Great Progress, Great Needs,’ but what I see in this picture is sadness and despair.” — Dr. Sweeney
“Society stands back, in the dark, trying to understand a fast-changing healthcare system in need. In this picture, the light seems to expose a baron system that requires additional staffing, better equipment and advanced training. Society must ponder how to implement these advances across our entire society. The ER looks stark and lonely, as if the needs of all are not being met.” — Dr. Kuiper
“The demand that COVID-19 placed on our local hospitals was tremendous and unprecedented. Overall, our local hospitals did a great job — a lot better than many other cities.” — Dr. Keller
“We will never have enough help or cure to turn away death. It is our birthright we all will eventually take. I like to think that this makes us kinder, knowing that life is a gift.” — Dr. Clark
The last time my daughter Emilia was inside a school was exactly a year ago — March 12, 2020. That morning in the classroom, her kindergarten teacher posted the daily morning message, written in green markers on a piece of wide-ruled paper: “What a crazy, mixed up, funny day! The morning in the gym was great. We all did awesome in the gym. You worked hard during our reading time. We go to music this afternoon.” As a class, they’d read The Three Billy Goats Fluff, then took a poll: 19 kids liked it; six did not.
Now Emilia is a first-grader who has never met her teacher in person, just via computer screen. Beginning next Thursday, though, she’ll be back at school two days a week. I asked her what she remembers about that last day of in-person kindergarten. Emilia said, “I don’t remember anything about that day. Not one thing. Well, I do remember on the giant whiteboard we watched a bunch of videos about COVID and started knowing what it was. Lots of germ videos that day. They actually said we’d be back in like a week maybe. You know, like normal sicknesses are. It was not a week, though. I think it was more like a year.”
editor, Louisville Magazine