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Friday, Dec 8, 2023

Genevieve Herron '23 in Westford, New York

Genevieve Herron '23

Westford, New York

Submitted April 3, 2020

I am a resident of Brooklyn, New York, so instead of living where I normally reside, I am at my family's second home in Westford, N.Y. While I understand that I am very lucky to be out of the city, which is chaotic and where there is a lot of suffering, living upstate has its downsides. My house is very rural. You cannot see any other homes from where I live. We are not connected to the electrical grid and receive all of our power from our solar panels or a small gas-powered generator. Until about three weeks ago, we did not have internet access. We installed satellite internet in preparation for being here for a prolonged period of time since my sister and I need internet access for school work.

A photo I took of my dad on our porch. We were sitting outside chatting so I could get fresh air without walking because every time I started walking I had a coughing fit.

There is barely cell reception. Our house has no heat and only uses wood stoves. My regular routine of working at a desk or at the library has been disrupted significantly. I have been able to make an extra bedroom into a sort of study which is fortunate, but I have been very distracted by my sister’s work. She is studying classical flute and will practice for as many as four hours a day — which can be very loud and distracting. I have to have my Zoom classes in my kitchen because I cannot get good enough reception in my "study" and I often feel guilty for making my parents cease all activity during my classes.

My parents definitely have higher stress levels right now, as do I and many others. My aunt and uncle are both doctors in NYC. My aunt is a pediatrician and has not had much contact with coronavirus patients, but my uncle has been working in ERs and hospitals all over Brooklyn. When we FaceTime him, he recounts horror stories of what he sees at work. We are all worried for them.

Furthermore, both of my parents are concerned for my grandparents. They are all in their 80s and 90s and live alone (both couples are divorced — two remarried and one is a widow, my family tree is complicated). My dad's mom lives alone on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. She has been shopping at grocery stores she finds mostly empty and walking her dog in Central Park when she can. My dad's dad and stepmom also live on the Upper East Side, but my step-grandmother has glioblastoma and needs 24-hour care. She is irritable and not herself. So, on top of worrying about his elderly father navigating Manhattan in the time of coronavirus, my dad has to worry about his father's wife dying. To my grandfather, it's already as if she's gone.

What has been your greatest worry or day-to-day concern as coronavirus has spread? 

I am worried about my relatives and friends becoming ill, mostly my grandparents and aunt and uncle. I am worried about my friends not missing me and about not being as close as we were when we return to campus. I am worried about my dad becoming so anxious and stressed, and possibly becoming sick (he is 60 and the most at risk in my immediate family). 

What has made you happy over the past few weeks?

I have enjoyed watercoloring, which is a hobby I just got into over spring break. I enjoy writing letters to my friends. I have been having lots of fun goofing off with my 21-year-old sister who I do not see that often. I have been practicing my stick shift driving. Baking bread.

Anything else you'd like us to know?

I have also been sick for the past two-to-three weeks and had to go to a mobile hospital in a nearby town. That was a very humbling experience because I saw what the healthcare workers were doing to care for those with illness that are not coronavirus.