Alexandria, VA – The sunshine warmed the brisk, breezy afternoon in the Stratford Landing neighborhood of Alexandria. Residents were walking their dogs, doing yard work, washing their cars, and making the most of a beautiful day. All the while, carefully keeping their distance in this global pandemic, a little easier to do in the wider streets and sidewalks of the suburbs.
Daniel Wong sat on the curb in front of his house, ready to get on a work teleconference call. Technically, he was sitting in front of the home of his girlfriend’s parents where they were temporarily living. Residents of New York City, he and his girlfriend rented a car and drove down here the second week of March to escape the COVID-19 virus and its lethal spread through Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs. As much as they miss the Big Apple, which is “a great place to live, usually,” they were grateful to be able to work remotely. Of course, living with in-laws can be tricky, but he said the reality was quite the opposite. “There’s so much room here for us to all spread out. Our city apartment is a studio, so this feels pretty nice.” Wong laughed and admitted that a couple of years ago, they never thought of moving to the suburbs. And now? “To be honest, they don’t seem too bad.”
Two blocks away, Sharon Timmons and her husband were working in the yard and planting her cannas. An avid and skilled tennis player, Timmons said she misses the game, and her friends, but she needs to be smart, keep her distance and refrain from playing to stay safe from COVID-19. “We were able to watch our grandson graduate from the Air Force on tv, so that was good, since we couldn’t actually be there.” She’s coping with online church services and attends mass every Sunday through her iPad.
Mark and Karen Morris were out walking with Misty, their beautiful, blue-eyed Husky.
The Dean family was working in their side yard, using a chainsaw to break up a large tree that had fallen after a few days of rain, narrowly missing the house.
Meredith was out with the younger two of her four children, getting some exercise before lunch and late nap. “Every day is different; we’re doing the best we can between work and school, trying to keep expectations realistic.”
Rob Hollingsworth was washing his car and performing some maintenance tasks, getting to the chores he usually doesn’t get to.
Siamak Gorgeen had his daughter in the stroller as they set out for a walk, happy to get out of the house. “It’s amazing to see so many people out enjoying the day. You just can’t stay in the house all the time.” A familiar sentiment in this time of COVID-19.
Diane Prokop had a spring in her step as she strolled her neighborhood where the azaleas are in beautiful bloom. An active retiree, Prokop is making the difficult adjustment while coping with the quarantine along with everyone else, lamenting the loss of her former routine. “After working for so long, I retired and started going to the gym and playing golf, but now of course that’s all changed. I really miss the friends I used to see regularly in those worlds.” Prokop likes to keep moving so she tries to get out every day and walk through the neighborhood while keeping her distance from others. “I’ve lived here for 35 years, and I’m so happy to see all the lovely young families out and about, riding bikes, doing things together.”
Emilie Miller, a sophomore at Northern VA Community College, had her tripod and camera set up as she sat on a blanket in her yard, with her sweet black green-eyed cat keeping her company. She’s an art student and explained that participating in remote learning is a real challenge, especially for studio and lab classes. She’s finding it tough to get it all done, but thankful her teachers are being flexible. She was recording a scene for a short film she’s making about coping with COVID-19 and the quarantine. “It’s about me, going about my day. I’m sitting here thinking of some of the big events I’ve gone to with a lot of people, but now we’re all separated. So my film is about being separate but also united.”
In fact, that was the underlying theme for all the neighbors in Stratford Landing: In this strange time of coping with COVID-19, we remain separate but united, and look forward to reconnecting in person once again.