By Rick Palsgrove
The impression one gets when walking along the fairly empty streets of Groveport these days is that the place is very quiet in the wake of the coronavirus situation.
Governor Mike DeWine’s “stay at home” order and the clamp down on group gatherings, as well as the shuttering of the schools and of some businesses to combat the spread of the coronavirus, has created a quiet atmosphere on and along the streets.
One recent evening as I walked with a friend around Groveport it struck me that the nearly non-existent traffic and no parked cars on Main Street reminded me of my youth in the 1960s. The town was much smaller and slow paced in those days. There just was not a lot of traffic most of the time then. It was quiet then, now it is quiet again.
“The streets are so quiet now,” observed Groveport resident Brenda Watts.
She said that when the quarantine first began, the quick changes occurring in everyone’s lives were “incredibly unsettling.”
“Now each day brings new information,” said Watts. “And the new information brings modifications to our modern lives. It feels helpless as all of this rolls over us. And the quiet that was once odd and uneasy now feels more comforting. The silence that falls on our little town at each sunset brings a calm.”
Watts recalled two other times when the town was so quiet – once when construction was being done on the streets through town and also after 9/11.
“After 9/11 there was a quiet that felt sad and confusing – which is similar in a way to the sadness and confusion we are maneuvering through now,” said Watts. “But then with the tears came hugs and the reassurance of being with groups of loved ones and friends.”
However, the look of the empty streets are deceiving. There is indeed much going on in town. People are out walking their dogs or just out for a peaceful walk themselves. Joggers pound the pavement. Bicycles whirr past. Folks are working in their garages and gardens. People are enjoying the parks (at safe distances). Restaurants, though closed to sit down diners, are doing take out and delivery orders. People who can are doing their jobs at home. On warm days one will see people sitting on their front porches enjoying the bits of spring that March and early April allows. Businesses that can remain open are serving the public.
“Despite the social distancing it has been nice to see more folks out taking walks, riding bikes, and enjoying the mild weather,” said Groveport Police Sgt. Josh Short. “Our second shift was recently called to Middle School Central on report of kids on the roof, which was fairly common 15 years ago, but has given way to electronic entertainment. I recently pulled up to a teen who was skateboarding in front of a local business and asked him what he thought he was doing. As he removed his earbuds thinking he was in trouble I joked with him about skateboarding being ‘old fashioned’ then assured him that it was highly encouraged.”
Activity abounds in the hush of the virus crisis. We take precautions against the coronavirus, but we defiantly refuse to let it stop us from living.
“And now we are finding ways to try to stay connected across safe distances,” said Watts. “It is wonderful to see the creativity and kindness of neighbors and friends reaching out to each other across our six feet of safety. I hope this forced distancing – when lifted – brings us closer than we allowed ourselves to be before.”
Mayor Lance Westcamp said the city is taking the pandemic seriously.
“We are abiding by the governor’s and the health department’s orders not only to keep our employees, but our residents safe,” said Westcamp. “We are now down to just a few employees working. The police department is doing an incredible job. I believe we are in for the long haul on this situation.”
Westcamp encouraged residents to visit local businesses.
“These are tough times for them,” said Westcamp. “We have already seen the hardship of a couple businesses. The recent heavy rains did not help matters. We take pride in the community we live, Groveport. When we work together, do what we are suppose to do, we will get through this.”
Sgt. Short said that, with the governor’s “stay at home” order police officers have seen a significant drop in calls for service and a drastic drop in traffic volume.
“Naturally that means fewer crimes being committed and reported and a sharp decrease in traffic accidents,” said Sgt. Short. “It is very similar to what we experience on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day when most people stay at home. Sadly during holidays or times when families are inside for extended periods we see an increase in domestic incidents, but fortunately this has yet to manifest.”
In our battle against the coronavirus, we may find our common cause will bring us closer together in unexpected ways. We are slowing down, taking stock, and focusing on what is important. There’s a re-awakening in ourselves, an awareness of the beauty of life and of the world and people around us. It’s an awareness that has always been there within us and now we are reminded and know it is there to be cherished.