By Al Beebert on April 3, 2021.
What a difference a year makes! One year ago – the day after Good Friday last year, I started my first day of a temporary layoff due to the impact of COVID-19.
From the brief time the first stories started coming over the newswire about this new and mysterious adversary to human life to the day I worked my last shift ironically on Good Friday, I never could have imagined life would turn upside down so quickly.
I doubt anyone did as we went about business as usual working, going to the gym, meeting friends for drinks or dinner and just doing what we always did.
But in a matter of weeks, COVID-19 hit us with a monkey wrench.
Due to conflicting information about the value of masks, I’m sure many of us didn’t wear one in those early days which may have prevented the spread of the virus if we had.
Instead, we gradually began practising social distancing while many started working from home.
I was among a handful who came to the office here every day and I did my fair share of coverage about the impact COVID was having on our community. My last story for the paper was an interview with a couple of car dealerships – Subaru of Lethbridge and Lethbridge Hyundai – about how COVID was affecting their operations.
My final column was on the Netflix “Tiger King” series. I wrote the column even though I was devastated about the news I’d just received but I felt an obligation to keep the spirits of readers up by being positive and writing about something that might interest them.
I put in one subtle paragraph, which was apparently way more than subtle, saying my column would be going on hiatus due to the pandemic.
I had no clue after my shift on Good Friday what the future would hold; I was frightened and worried but I was hopeful the pandemic’s impact would be short-lived and I’d be back in the saddle in a month or two.
That optimism and faith kept me going as two months stretched into three, then four and five until publisher Brian Hancock called with the news I was coming back.
It was like a lifetime of Christmases being delivered in one phone call. Those six months off were a learning experience. And I learned mostly that I can effortlessly make a brutal mess in the kitchen with zero effort and I’m a chronic worrier.
I didn’t sleep a full night during that layoff because I was sick with worry every single day. At my age with my only skills being newspaper specific, I had no clue what would happen if I were to not come back.
But I kept the faith and I survived thanks to a lot of support from my family and closest friends. Liz, Dylan, Bruce N., Bart, Bruce F., Rod, Mike and Lisa, Carol and Steve, Tera and Darryl, Robert, Roger, Rio and Benson – I’m indebted to them for getting me through an incredibly dark and uncertain time.
I’m also truly appreciative of The Herald for bringing me back and to all those readers who when seeing me at the dog park or grocery stores, expressed their appreciation for my work and their hopes they’d once again see my column. Among them was my former co-worker G. Wayne Dwornik and his wife who lifted my spirits immeasurably one morning in the checkout line at Safeway.
It didn’t take long for the word to get out that I was on hiatus and this newspaper’s readers truly made me feel I had a lot of friends in this city.
I’ve been reminded of that constantly since I’ve been back thanks to the kind words so many of you have spoken to me on the phone, by email and in person.
It’s an honour to serve you with my words, my images and my other work here which has included since Jan. 1, taking care of all matters involving the Opinion page, the Community page and until recently, doing all the daily page layout except for Page A4 and the sports pages.
It’s been a hectic few months with a lot of long hours but the kindness I’ve had from so many of you makes it all so worthwhile.
To all of you, as well as to my colleagues here at The Herald and the rest of the Alberta Newspaper Group, I wish you and your families a truly magnificent Easter.
We aren’t out of the woods yet with the COVID-19 pandemic and we need to maintain continued vigilence until this scourge of humanity is brought under control.
Too many people have lost jobs and their lives because of COVID.
We can beat this thing but we need to work together.
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