The day I made the decision to cover the pandemic in the US

Marie Le Blé Times Square on the cusp of the peak that will make NYC the nation’s epicenter.

Marie Le Blé

This is probably one of the first things that struck me the most. The silence. The Big Apple, the bustling and bubbling city of a thousand lights, had suddenly stopped making noise. – Times Square the day before the summit that will make NYC the epicenter of the country

COVID-19 – A friend I recently spoke to about the pandemic told me this: “Everything that happened made us look at death differently. » And to add: “We may accept it more easily. » This approach is so personal that at the time I admit I didn’t really know what to say to him. In the United States, and especially in New York, where I settled ten years ago, it is nevertheless this daily confrontation with the constant fear of being removed from this world or of seeing my loved ones disappear that haunted me for almost two half a year. years.

I will never forget this Monday, March 16, 2020, when after careful consideration I decided to turn the key in the lock, my camera bag on my shoulder, to go and look more than the invisible enemy in the eyes of this kind of unknown monster curiously named Covid – 19. That day I had chosen to testify, to open the eyes of those who were not there to see and hear, beginning with this invading silence that had suddenly taken hold of New York.

The silence of the big apple

This is probably one of the first things that struck me the most. The silence. The Big Apple, the bustling and bubbling city of a thousand lights, had suddenly stopped making noise. And then this dizzying vision of streets and avenues deserted overnight. A few rare cars that sped towards infinity as if panicked in front of this ghostly contraption added to the amazement of the moment.

Then came the shrill screams of the sirens, night and day, seven days a week, for months, kneading with anxiety the 8.5 million New Yorkers who now sit in the epicenter city, a sad label that the Big Apple has retained ever since.

Their horns still make me jump today and they often rob me of sleep so much that I wondered, and this hundreds of times, who these ambulances or fire engines could be transporting and to what destination. Was it not already too late for the man or woman, this father, this mother, this aunt, this brother-in-law, this sister or this grandmother who was there, his face crushed by a mask of oxygen? In the absence of any protection, antigenic tests or PCR and even less vaccines, terms that have become so familiar these days, I find myself thanking heaven week after week, barely reassured, faced with this one certainty that we had, remember, at the time of the incubation period of this devastating virus which was five days.

An oven without fire

Every time I left my apartment, without always being able to explain it to myself, I had the impression of entering an oven without fire or combustion so much New York, a festive party city, roof terrace and shopping, no longer looked like herself.

Was it the fact that you could only travel by metro and on foot, buses and taxis had been put on hold? The slightest sore throat or a simple torn plastic glove forced me, sometimes nightmares as a bonus, to drop the days for better or for worse. But what could stop my daily excursions, except death or this indescribable fear of being hospitalized? A history of multiple pneumonias probably wouldn’t have given me a chance.

The answer, I found it in the indescribable dedication of caregivers and all important workers. These “front line” as the Americans call them, helped me stand and stay on my feet for months. Their strength and their courage inspired me, as did the prayer nurse I met in a chapel in Manhattan, close to her ward, without a word being exchanged. It was also this photographer, who specializes in architecture, who confided in me one day in June that he had become a stretcher bearer tasked with transporting bodies to one of the hardest hit hospitals in the city.

As if the burden was not heavy enough to bear, the tragedy of George Floyd, followed by outbreaks of violence across the country, or even the violent presidential campaign preceding the attack on Capitol Hill, has only exacerbated the rift in an already divided America. But in Uncle Sam’s land, I also understood that the anger to live and overcome the impossible always ends up winning. A few days before Christmas, the city that never sleeps has decked itself out with all its best hopes, more than ever ready to keep its promises again…

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