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Nation & World

People Share #TheMoment They Realized The Pandemic Was Changing Life As They Knew It

Empty shelves at a Target in Burbank, Calif., on March 14, 2020. Many people across the U.S. are approaching the one-year anniversary of the moment they went into lockdown and realized life as they knew had changed.
Empty shelves at a Target in Burbank, Calif., on March 14, 2020. Many people across the U.S. are approaching the one-year anniversary of the moment they went into lockdown and realized life as they knew had changed.

It has been nearly a year since much of the U.S. entered coronavirus-related lockdowns. For many people, they're approaching the anniversary of when they realized that life as they knew it was being fundamentally altered from how it had been a month, a week or even a day earlier.

The work-from-home era began. Bare grocery store shelves, empty subway cars, the absence of rush-hour traffic all seemed like post-apocalyptic scenes. Things that people often took for granted — like hugs, seeing friends at birthday parties, dinners out together and midday coffee runs with colleagues — were no longer considered safe and harmless as they had been before.

Professional sports leagues canceled or postponed entire seasons, and celebrities like Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson announced they had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Around the world, there was still so much unknown about the coronavirus and so much uncertainty about how life would look in two weeks — let alone one year later.

A person wears protective gloves and a face mask due to COVID-19 concerns while walking along an empty train platform at the Cortlandt Street station on March 21, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
John Minchillo / AP
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A person wears protective gloves and a face mask due to COVID-19 concerns while walking along an empty train platform at the Cortlandt Street station on March 21, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

As we approach the anniversary of the World Health Organization officially declaring the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, NPR Weekend Edition host Lulu Garcia-Navarro asked her Twitter followers to use #TheMoment to share when they realized that things were going to be different — where they were and what they were thinking when they realized that a shift was happening.

Thousands of responses poured in. We've collected some of those replies and are sharing them below. To share your memory from a year ago, use the hashtag #TheMoment on Twitter or email us at nprcrowdsource@npr.org with the words "The Moment" in the subject line.

For many people, the moment they realized they were entering pandemic life happened in the aisles of their grocery store as they stocked up on nonperishable food or found complete sections wiped out. Did you cook those dried beans? Try, and fail, to find hand sanitizer and toilet paper?

Child care and the blur between work and home life represented the moment for countless others. Many people shared stories of their kids coming home from school, day care or college for what was supposed to be two weeks and ended up being many months instead.

Teachers also shared moments and scenes from empty classrooms. Even today, many school districts remain fully or partially remote.

Live events, including sports and music, were where some people realized that their lives were changing and they wouldn't be able to be back in that setting for a long while.

For others, small gatherings with their friends and family were the last "normal" moments they had. Some people didn't go through with their events as planned but instead began what would become a trend: household-only events or socially distanced hangouts.

Doctors also shared when they realized that the task before them and the volume of patients they were about to see were dramatically changing.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.