Four years

Four years ago today, on Friday, March 13, 2020, the state of California shut down schools across the state. I was then the minister of religious education in Palo Alto, Santa Clara County, California. Since our congregation decided to tie our education programs to whatever the public schools did, that meant we too were going to move all our programs online effective immediately. And on that same day, Santa Clara county banned all gatherings of more than 100 people, so our congregation moved Sunday services online as of the following Sunday.

Complete lockdown happened three days later, as most Bay Area counties issued a stay-at-home order on March 16. A state-wide shelter-in-place order was issued on March 19.

Houses of worship were considered “essential services,” so I could get out of the house and go to work a couple of days a week. But it was definitely creepy commuting to work on Highway 101. The week before, all four lanes in both directions would be packed with cars from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. In the first weeks after the shut-down, at times I’d see no other cars on the road. It reminded me of this passage from Daniel Defoe’s Journal of a Plague Year: “…the great streets within the city [of London], such as Leadenhall Street, Bishopsgate Street, Cornhill, and even the Exchange itself, had grass growing in them in several places; neither cart or coach were seen in the streets from morning to evening, except some country carts to bring roots and beans, or peas, hay, and straw, to the market, and those but very few compared to what was usual.”