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Sensing the Virus / Visual Media

8 O’Clock Howl and Silly Rock Redefining Community in Isolation

Under the given circumstances of social isolation, our concept of community has changed dramatically. People have creatively adapted how they are finding community with others - whether that be a collective howl at 8:00pm, a trend that has taken off across the globe, or leaving hopeful messages on colorful rocks. Sharing a sense of solidarity throughout these trying times is one way that people are staying connected to each other while still living in isolation.

Abandoned Playground and Traces of Childhood

The caution tape draped across playgrounds carries a deeper, hollow meaning on this spring afternoon. The monkey bars and swing set appear like the skeletal remains of a time where children interacting with each other was not interpreted as a public health threat. We are reminded of the spaces that once provided friendship and entertainment, are now vacantly awaiting the return of children’s laughter. These undisturbed places, that were once places of growth and joy, solidify the abstract feelings of isolation and vacancy occurring worldwide during this pandemic. Examples of childhood put on pause are draped throughout the city, serving as a grave reminder that these complex times are affecting the livelihood of children who do not have the capacity to understand the dramatic shift in their lives.

Newspapers: COVID-19 is Your Story

To varying degrees, we are all personally affected by this global pandemic. Each individual’s lived experience of the pandemic shapes the way in which this time period will be remembered. This is a historical event in the making and as history is often captured with an excluding narrative, it is incredibly important to embrace and reflect on the pressures felt in each individual’s COVID story. By living through this time period, we are able to make senseable the historical, drastic shifts within our world. Therefore, it is incredibly important to reflect on your own experience with this global pandemic, to trace the wavelengths of your senses, feelings and emotions during these times of insecurity and constant change, and to remember this is just as much a global issue as it is individual.


Saint Louis Walk

This creative montage is a collection of small detailed moments that I became aware of while walking through Saint Louis. By connecting the cyclical nature of springtime’s rebirth with the concrete outlines of the deserted city, I attempted to capture the transitions of reframing our understanding of movement that still exists despite the world being put on pause. All across the globe, people are having to come up with new, independent ways to spend their free time; many have taken to going on walks throughout their neighborhood. Upon the transition to slower pedestrian past times, one becomes more sensitive to the texture of familiar surroundings. Amidst the mundane repetition of life in quarantine, I have gathered a semblance of the detailed beauty of familiar places, picking up on the detailed movement that would otherwise be lumped into the category of “everyday existence”.

Rainbows in Windows

In some countries the severity of this outbreak is resulting in even harsher stay-at-home orders than we are seeing in the United States. In many Italian cities, people are unable to even go on daily walks to break up the long days of isolation. In an effort to spread joy and reassurance during a time of uncertainty, many Italians have decorated their windows with rainbows as a message to those surrounding them. This idea has now reached the United States, and even developed into an engaging scavenger hunt for children. In some places, Facebook groups have created interactive maps of the rainbow’s locations in their area, allowing kids to find their next decorated window by using these maps. This not only engages the children, but also those who hunt down the rainbows to create the maps and Facebook groups. Thus, something that merely began as an individual decorating their window while in isolation has transformed into an interactive experience for communities across the nation.

Teddy Bear in Windows

In all 50 states and 12 other countries, a friendly game called the “teddy bear hunt” is being played as a way to entertain children during this time of uncertainty. This trend has spread all across the globe from New Zealand all the way to the United States. In fact, it has become so popular that there is a record board for the most bears spotted in one walk, with 68 taking first place. Many individuals have begun placing stuffed animals in their windows to participate in teddy bear hunts that are geared towards making daily walks a bit more interactive. Children (and adults) are playing a game in which they see how many stuffed animals they can find perched in windows during their frequent walks. Not only does this make walks more exciting, but it also changes the way people are sensing their environment. It requires active attention to one’s surroundings so they can find the next teddy bear. This photo shows the decorated window of a small family home in Oneonta, New York. The 5 year old girl who lives here added her own unique touch by accompanying the teddy bear with a drawing of spring tulips.

Thank You Essential Workers Signs

During a rather dark time for many individuals, we fortunately are becoming sensitive to  the brighter side of humanity. Signs thanking healthcare professionals, and essential workers have popped up in many front lawns across the country. This particular photo was taken during a neighborhood walk in Oneonta, New York. This family handmade multiple aluminum foil signs in the shape of a heart to be placed on the line of trees in their front yard. Many of these signs include a drawing of a heart to show gratitude towards those putting themselves at risk daily. The signs share a simple, yet important message thanking essential workers, including those outside of the healthcare industry like UPS workers, and Fire Fighters. Not only do these signs show appreciation to any essential workers who may stumble upon them, but it also encourages others to think of creative ways to show their respect. What started out as a way for people to show their recognition for essential personnel, has grown into a way of raising money for COVID-19 response foundations. Companies have begun to create and sell these signs with the aim to donate proceeds to meet the needs of local hospitals.

Sidewalk Chalk 

Under stay-at-home orders, the outdoors is one of the few places people can go to get out of the house. In an effort to spread positivity, people are decorating sidewalks with colorful, and encouraging messages to make these daily walks a bit more engaging. This series of images was taken while I was going on my daily walk through downtown Oneonta, New York. Typically, this Main Street is rather lifeless, with vacant shops, and littered sidewalks. Though ever since people have begun participating in #ChalkYourWalk, the sidewalks are full of colorful pictures, and reassuring messages. On this particular day, the artist even encouraged walkers to stop and interact with the drawings by writing “stop here and appreciate life”. The #ChalkYourWalk is being used not only to get people out of isolation, but it also unites individuals to remind them they aren’t going through the pandemic alone. Through this, these mundane walks gain a greater purpose by encouraging participants to interact with their environment, thus turning a passive sensory experience into an active and engaging one.

Driving around Omaha on Monday at 4:22 P.M., an outsider might not think much has changed in Omaha after the outbreak and spread of COVID-19. Under a bright sun and some clouds, plenty of cars are still on roads and highways during the rush hour. Residents of the Omaha metropolitan area (which has no stay-at-home order) are heading back home from work, or they’re going to pick up dinner. Families are still going to local parks to play around, and friends are meeting up for a game of golf or other recreational activities. But as much as some of Omaha’s residents are trying to maintain a sense of “business as usual,” a more critical viewing of Omaha points to reality being anything but normal.

This is Dodge Street, Omaha’s main street and busiest road. Usually cars are backed up along Dodge during this time, but now, there is not a trace of congestion. The source for this slowed movement? Countless businesses, both corporations and local stores, are closed or have moved to take out options. This location of Village Inn, a chain restaurant I worked at for three years, permanently closed down in early April. It was an important place where I developed a sense of myself and of those in my community, and it is now gone. More significantly, in this current moment, its closure left many of my old coworkers wondering when they’ll get their next paycheck and how they’ll take care of their families. Two of my old coworkers are even expecting to give birth any day now. This unsureness, emptiness, slowness, is not normal. We are so used to moving and working that when we’re forced to stop, we become disoriented and confused - and sometimes even overwhelmed when life keeps going. Can you get a sense for what it might be like to bring another human into this world during this time?

This time of slowness, during which we are forced to pause, can jar our sense of normal if we stop and observe for just a second. When my friend and I stopped to take photographs, we were so confused by the appearance of a school bus. All of Omaha’s schools went online at least a week before this picture was taken - so why are school buses driving about? What is their purpose? When looking for more information online as to why school buses were out and about, nothing showed up. When the sight of an everyday occurrence is something that you suddenly question and look into, how can we sit with that to make sense of what’s become our new normal? Interrogating this new normal can help us pinpoint what exactly has changed and brainstorm the ways in which things should change. For instance, thinking about the uses of Omaha’s buses could reveal that they can be used to transport meals to kids who are no longer receiving lunch from their schools.

Driving through the University of Omaha’s main campus, we were struck by its emptiness. Common everyday occurrences startled us - a car pulling out of a parking garage, a student walking on a sidewalk, and one building’s parking lot that was oddly full of cars. The move to online classes has left many students feeling isolated, alone, distant from reality. No more bumping into friends between classes, and no more trying to pass through the intersection before the light changes so you can get to class. So, even though we’re now stuck inside of our homes doing classes and anxiously waiting for this all to be over, where does this take us? What are we more sensitive to, and what SHOULD we be more sensitive to? I think a recent saying that’s been going around on social media sites frames the answer to the latter question: We all may be experiencing the same storm, but we all don’t have the same boat. Following this saying, there are some wealthy people who are in their multi-million dollar cruise ships - and there are working class people on rafts struggling to cross the sea. And there’s all sorts of ships in between those ends - but there are definitely more rafts than cruise ships. How can we sensitize ourselves to those on the rafts, and more importantly, how can we support and liberate them from their struggles?

When this is all over, we’ll be approaching an intersection; at this crossroads, we’ll be forced to consider - do we go back to what was normal? Here in this video, there are certainly people who are trying to maintain a sense of normal by driving around, getting food, going to work, running errands; heck, even driving around helped me feel things were somewhat normal still.

Or, do we take a turn and go down another street? Having been forced to attune ourselves to death, loss, and loneliness, how might we now be attuned to others who have experienced the same (but also, experienced it in different ways)? During this slowness, maybe the first thing to do isn’t buying a new video game to play or binge watching entire seasons on Netflix. Maybe the first thing to do, rather, is to slow down and stop. Pay attention to the ways in which we’re understanding ourselves. Sit with what we’re feeling as we keep driving forward. Become aware of the intricacies of our isolated selves within our environments. Make connections among our own selves and the others we pass on the road. And really, critically, reflect on others’ situations during this crisis. And ask ourselves, what needs to change? What direction do we need to turn to next?

”And the world came together as the people stayed apart.“The message of this self-inflicted billboard cascades down the front steps of a house in South St. Louis City. It is drawn in children’s sidewalk chalk, yet the neatness of the letters suggests a mature hand. Publicly displayed for all passersby to see, it lacks censorship. And although silent, it speaks through its semantics and form. This tweet-made-physical encompasses the current experience through which our society is moving. It serves as a reminder that this adversity, when shared, has the potential to beget something positive. It evokes hope for a community in suspension by physically communicating to a physically distant society. Although not physically present, we remain connected with the aid of written communication. With family, with friends, with neighbors and delivery drivers and strangers. Perhaps that’s why there is no letter “I” present.

Birthday Procession

I was driving north on Hampton Avenue when I saw a cluster of cars congregating in the South City Catholic Academy (formerly St. Joan of Arc) parking lot. Under normal circumstances this would be common, but it was 4pm on a random quarantine Tuesday. I had to pull over. I missed the light, so I circled around the block to the parking lot, dashed out of my car into the parking lot and waved my hands and asking for a picture. Confronting them within 20 ft under the circumstances initially jolted them, but 10 feet and 10 seconds later they were posing and smiling.

My random Tuesday happened to be Jimmy’s 5th birthday. His family gathered in the SCCA parking lot to queue for a birthday procession down his street. The right side of every car wore hand-colored posters exclaiming birthday adulations in block letters. Some even sported balloons. I realized that this was likely their first family gathering in months. The effort put into organizing this little parade shows the love spread throughout the family tree. Jimmy’s family made a point to demonstrate that togetherness does not demand immediate physical interaction. Family can be present from afar. They can share an experience from a distance as long as they are all participating actors.


As seen at the foot of St. Louis’s most popular backdrop: Art Hill. Walking around Forest Park attuned my senses to more than the Aristotelian five. For once, my spatial awareness was the forefront sense utilized in navigating the park. I used it when passing people, to estimate distance, and to gauge my geographical location. Sound was the next most used. Because the streets were empty, sound traveled with little impediment. I heard conversations from 40 feet across the street about some stranger’s marriage. I overheard many adults discussing furloughs and layoffs of friends with a twinge of anxiety under their panting breaths. One pair I passed even included SLU’s future staff cuts. Another pair I’m pretty sure were on a date (stay tuned for Love in the Time of COVID).

Yet this may misrepresent the actual number of park visitors that day. A few lingered along the banks, but most people kept moving. Even Art Hill’s population was sparse. It was unusual to say the least. Typically, on one of the first warm days after a brutal winter, the banks would be teeming and the hill covered with excited residents eager to indulge in the sun. Now only a few grace its stones. A few of these residents give an air of normalcy. Two pairs of girls take photos against the backdrop of Art Hill. Both are jumping in the air with splayed arms and legs. The one on the left wears a white cap and gown; the right, a WUSTL sweatshirt. Both are celebrating the same milestone from 20 feet apart. Even their photographers keep their distance; it’s impossible to know if they’re sisters, friends, roommates. Yet their distance tells the viewer that closeness is risky. This is now common practice and thought in the world. As a result, graduations have been rethought. COVID-19 has reshaped the community. Once the standard for major life events, physical parties have shifted to digital gatherings. Community creeps further online. These photos will be shared online with their social spheres, just as graduation likely will be.

Quarantine at SLU

It’s a beautiful day in April. The soul-sucking winter winds had finally subsided and the sun reigned in the sky. It’s the time of year SLU students earnestly reemerge from their dark burrows to indulge in fresh air and sunlight. Every hammock on West Pine is taken and more are threaded between every available set of trees. That’s a typical SLU spring.

Not this year. The COVID-19 outbreak forced most students to return home and demanded everyone to stay inside, socially distance. With campus lacking in residents, the pastures of West Pine are bare. Well, nearly. Some students that remain in the area refuse to let the circumstances rob them of a favorite SLU experience. These five students seized the sunny and 75 weather to hang out between Fusz Hall and the clocktower. The two who shared a blanket on the ground are encircled above by three hammockers in suspension. Their blocking notes intention: most of them practice the 6 foot guideline on separate planes. They have minimized contact horizontally and vertically. Although they may be farther apart than previous social interactions, they are still together. They are sustaining tradition, together. They are practicing a ‘normal’ experience amidst unnerving circumstances, together.

Two boys in matching blue hammocks frame a girl lounging in a lawn chair. In fact, everything amongst the boys are matching: their bikes, their hammocks, their shoes and clothes, their backpacks. Even their bikes match. Both black and built for speed, they lay against a tree at the midpoint of the three. All appear rather young, around high school. The boys’ lack of helmets and the girl’s sandals suggest all live in the neighborhood. They seem unrelated by blood, given the distance between each. They have sanctioned this cluster of trees a temporary sanctuary, a brief escape from their cloistered homes. They are self-sufficient, bringing all materials from home. Stuffed backpacks and invested efforts to string up a hammock implies an intention to linger a while. This experience, however, is fleeting. The same equipment is restricted by its design for portability. Each item in this frame is designed for this purpose, and it is this same aspect that reveals the moment’s impermanence. This moment has existed and already passed, although its circumstances remain. It represents the continuity of life amidst a pandemic. Although it feels like half a millennium has passed since Monday, our experience of this history-in-the-making will (hopefully) attune our society to the impermanence of everything in life, especially COVID-19 and social isolation.