Letter to the Editor — Sharing a wall with the neighborhood

Living in Brooklyn, New York over the last two months has been a significantly trying experience for me and my neighbors. There has been plenty of time for self-reflection, doubt, yearning and just plain boredom. I decided to reach out to my hometown of Susanville to share some of my experiences.

My wife and I have lived in Brooklyn for the last 12 years, and seeing people come and go is very common. New York isn’t for everyone. However, over that time, I have built relationships with my neighbors, made friends and have grown roots here. My building super, Tony, lives next door and we literally share bedroom walls. Over the years, I learned that he is a Vietnam vet, though he would prefer to talk about his childhood in Puerto Rico or the other tenants in our building. On the other side is Eileen, who loved spoiling our dog with treats and is as surly as it gets. I love sitting on the porch in our shared yard, talking with her while she smokes her daily cigarette.

The neighborhood changed significantly when New York’s PAUSE order went into effect. A significant number of my neighbors packed up and left. Commercial stores, restaurants and businesses shuttered, not knowing what the future held. Foot traffic was non-existent. As the neighborhood emptied out, sirens filled the overall silence beginning to take shape. There was a time where we thought it might be better to leave, but given the uncertain safety of air travel and our financial insecurity, we decided to stay.

Initially, I focused inward. Both Erika and I are fortunate to be able to work from home, but the initial stages of setting up for my job were very stressful, and I wasn’t sure how long funding would last. I had previously been sick with the flu, so I had residual coughing fits that never seemed to end. The anxiety began to build.

The first two weeks were by far the hardest because even simple tasks were muddied by limiting contact with others. While grocery stores and pharmacies didn’t have the supply issues seen elsewhere, lines were significant and social distancing within the stores was impossible. Even doing laundry in our shared building facilities seemed dangerous. Unfortunately as time has passed, close friends began to get sick, others had family members pass away with no way to visit or comfort them.

There have been highs and lows. My wife and I are very lucky to have stayed healthy. I have been able to talk either by phone or video chat with my family almost every day. Even the simple things that one takes for granted like a sunny day or grilling in the backyard bring greater pleasure. As the weather has gotten nicer, it has been nice to see Eileen on her back porch, or Tony walking his dog. We are very fortunate to have a car, so that we can take an evening drive out to Rockaway Beach for a little respite. Reality does creep in, however, even during these moments of respite. During a trip to the grocery store on a sunny day, I drove by the local hospital about five blocks from my apartment and saw white tractor trailers with an American flag on them. Initially I was happy — finally hospitals in Brooklyn were receiving supplies from FEMA, I thought. Come to find out later that day, these refrigerated trailers were makeshift morgues.

As I sit here writing today, the outlook is more optimistic. The sirens have begun to dissipate. Hospitals are almost at their normal capacity. New York City is on the verge of opening up in its Phase 1. Some semblance of normal life will return soon, and hopefully the pain will subside. We still have a long way to go and hope that everyone stays safe and healthy.

Chris Ithurburn

Former Susanville resident