Charleston enacted a stay at home order at midnight March 25 and a statewide order took effect April 7 at 5pm until further notice. For the past two weeks, I have been walking around downtown, taking pictures during my travels while carefully avoiding other pedestrians.
At first, it felt similar to how the city feels when there is an evacuation order in place before a hurricane. There is vastly less traffic and fewer people on the street. Unlike a hurricane, I have seen few buildings, save for a handful of stores on King Street, boarded up for protection. There are many more cars parked on the street as people are staying home and not leaving town to escape a storm.
The quiet has a different feel to it now though, at least to me. Before a hurricane, there is more a sense of resolve, a sense that we are going to get through this and deal with the aftermath, whatever that turns out to be. When I run into people who are staying in town during a storm, they have battened down their hatches to the extent they feel necessary and then it is a wait and see situation, sometimes complete with hurricane parties and great frivolity.
But not this time. Instead of exchanging a friendly greeting or stopping to chat, when I encounter others on the street, we all attempt to give each other a wide berth and there is an exchange of thank yous or nods to acknowledge the gesture, but for the most part, people keep moving. There is a sense of unease and uncertainty here that I have not felt before.
If there has been one positive during this time, it is that I have walked all over the city to visit favorite places, revisit places that I have not been to in a long time and even go to a few places that I have never been before. The quiet is almost eerie at times, but it provides an opportunity to stand in the middle of streets and take in the city from new perspectives without interference. I share these experiences daily on my Instagram account.
Whether or not this is a once in a lifetime experience remains to be seen – hopefully so and I hope to see the city full of life and activity very soon. In the meantime, I will share some of images of the city while it grapples with the pandemic. Be safe and be well!