‘A light at the end of the tunnel’: 15 local voices on optimism for the coming months

Just over one year ago today, on March 9, 2020, Ohio reported its first lab-confirmed Covid case. Today, the Dayton Daily News explored the lost experiences of the last year and the grief our community has suffered. But there is another side --- optimism that we’re coming out of the pandemic and about to reclaim some semblance of normalcy. We asked members of our community what they’re looking forward to, and this is what they said.

David Shumway, retired engineer and writer: I still have Christmas presents by a small tree and Christmas decor up. We’re waiting for the right time for eight family members to gather and be able to hug (and eat!) comfortably. We’re getting close with most of us to be vaccinated by Easter. It’ll be fun, and we’ll all always remember this strange combined holiday. A more serious point: We need a permanent virus unit under the CDC to continuously be alert and get ahead of the curve on vaccines, prepare and plan and have logistics in place ... because this will happen repeatedly.

Michael Roediger, Director and CEO, Dayton Art Institute

First and foremost, I look forward to being able to safely spend time with my 87-year-old Father. I also look forward to being more social with other vaccinated family and friends. I cannot wait to personally feel safe going to local restaurants, the Neon movies and to travel. There is so much of the world I want to see and the pandemic has made this even more clear. Even though we are opening the museum soon, I look forward to when feel we can all return to the museum and work together in person. Our team has done a great job working remotely, but I miss the energy and creative comradery. As, we reach herd immunity, I look forward to bringing more programs back in person at the museum. I miss our members and guests; I miss to seeing school children in the museum and the art to life. One of the safest places to be right now is at an art museum if you are looking for entertainment and education options for your friends and family.

Floyd Weatherspoon, lead singer, Touch: I look forward to being an entertainer. It will be great to perform again and to see others perform again. It will be great to be able to go to a sporting event, a restaurant or just see and touch, shake hands or hug people --- the little things we all take for granted. Unfortunately, many businesses have closed causing livelihoods and dreams to be wiped out. I’m fortunate to still be here as I’ve lost a brother and nephew to Covid.

Credit: FILE

Credit: FILE

Nan Whaley, Mayor, City of Dayton: Like so many people, I’ve spent the last year worried about my parents. It was a huge relief when they were finally able to get vaccines recently and I could finally give them a hug. I’m an extrovert and a hugger, so the lack of close contact with friends and family over the last year has been especially hard for me.

I know that I’ve been one of the lucky ones, though. So many people lost loved ones, their jobs, their businesses, or their savings. The past year has put on display just how frayed many aspects of our society have become - a broken unemployment insurance program, an underfunded public health system, essential workers who are underpaid and underappreciated. We can’t forget this.

When the pandemic ends, it’s not going to be enough to go back to the way things were - we need to build back better and stronger. No one should ever have to choose between their health and putting food on the table. Now is the time to prepare for future crises and make sure that no one gets left behind.

Tony Ortiz, President, El-Puente: I retired in January 2020. I was looking forward to getting out and enjoying life. Since the pandemic I really learned I should be grateful for the little things, the things I did not appreciate enough before. Traveling, especially by plane. Spending more time with my family and friends. Just seeing them face to face. Going to sporting events. Live in-person meetings. Discarding Zoom forever. Civil and cordial encounters with strangers. Literally & figuratively opening doors for hard-working families and those in need.

Joyce Barnes, founder of the Modern African Diaspora Experience: I’m looking forward to doing what I did today, going to see live (not online) theater. The last live play I attended before today was on March 15, 2020. There was no mask mandated and no social distancing enforced. It was a scary experience, especially when a lady sitting in front of me kept coughing. Today, March 6, 2021, my birthday, I saw a great production of Neil Simon’s Rumors. The audience was masked and socially distant. The wine was in individual bottles. And The play was so much good fun. If there’s live theater, there’s community, catharsis, and joy.

Tianisha Payne, Girls Emerging into Maturity, Founder and Program Director. With the world heading back to normal, I am looking forward to being in a packed room with 25 or more of my Gems and their families. I can not wait to be able to see their pretty smiles hear their laughter without it being muffled and watch them hug and greet their fellow Gems without a care in the world. I’m anticipating seeing our girls huddled together making Tik-Toc videos or practicing their dance moves like no one is watching. Most of all I am looking forward to finally connecting with a few influential youth organizations.

Debbie Lieberman, Montgomery County Commissioner: I am very optimistic about our collective future. I believe we are coming up on a new “new normal”. We may need to wear masks for a little longer than we may like and a certain amount social distancing may last a while longer. We may need to forgo handshakes and hugs but we will, once again, be able to gather for meals, meetings, sporting and cultural events. I especially miss basketball and live performances. That will feel like such a relief. I miss my friends and the collaboration that comes with face-to-face meetings and gatherings. I know our community, like those across the country and the world, want to both stay safe and return to normal. The only way to make sure we have some normal back in our lives and stay safe is to accept some personal responsibility and act in the best interest of our family, friends, neighbors and co-workers.

Dave Kay, financial advisor: Traveling around the country to visit my family, especially my 81-year-old mother in Florida and my 2-year-old grandson in Seattle. Greeting everyone I meet with a handshake or a hug. Getting together with friends to play trivia at a local restaurant. Listening to live music at the Fraze and Stubbs Park. Going to the ballpark to watch a baseball game. Watching the 4th of July fireworks with friends and family. Playing softball, golf, and sitting around a poker table with my buddies. Going to a movie at the theater with a packed crowd. Swimming at a pool and not worrying about being too close to other people. Football Sunday, watching all the games at a crowded sports bar. Overall, I look forward to a healthy future for my family and friends. It can’t come soon enough.

William “Kip” Moore: On March 9, 2020, I remember for the first time in my life I was a little afraid not of the virus but the effects that it would have on my livelihood. Right away my work went on lockdown and asked us to work from home, I couldn’t see my Mom at her nursing home and my church canceled services. The community went into a frenzy with hand sanitizers, disinfectant sprays and bathroom tissues. The long lines at supermarkets, people unaware of their future and looking to survive this encounter by stocking up and hoarding supplies. I had no idea how long this pandemic would last and as of today now looking back I now see a light at the end of the tunnel with these new vaccines. I truly understand the true meaning of faith and its importance in our lives. Because with it I now can see our community, city, and world getting back to some kind of semblance to what we called once called normalcy.

Greg Scott, owner & publisher South Dayton Lifestyle magazine: What I am most looking forward to post-covid is visiting and hugging my family & friends – free of any concern. I miss being able to greet my loved ones in this fashion. While zoom is a wonderful vehicle, there is nothing like enjoying the company of people you care about in person. Also, I cannot wait to attend athletic events again surrounded by other cheering sports fanatics in support of my teams. Whether it is the Wright State Raiders, UD Flyers, Dayton Dragons or Ohio State Buckeyes, that is truly going to be even more special to me now. Not to mention the outdoor concerts my wife and I attend at The Fraze Pavilion during the spring and summer months. So many things we took for granted in the past will take on extra meaning moving forward.

Abram DaSilva, Hydrologist, National Weather Service: Living far from family was hard enough before COVID-19, and my wife, our daughter, and I cherished every opportunity to spend time with our out-of-state families whenever the chance arose. Not being able to see our loved ones for more than a year has definitely been a challenge; it’s been tough to watch our 6-year-old work to understand the situation and why we can’t visit family and to know that so much time has gone by without her making memories of playing with her cousins or of baking cookies with grandparents. The birth of our son last month has only underscored how important our family-members are in our lives. Now, with the end of the pandemic in sight, we are so excited to spend time with family again – we can’t wait to give hugs, laugh together, and really show our son the kind of family he gets to join.

Rev. Dr. Celeste Didlick-Davis Miami University Something that I am looking forward to is being able to interact & hug people, especially my seniors. I have been fortunate enough to engage in a senior ministry in our community. It is based at my church but it includes seniors in the Middletown Community, I have the privilege of taking them to plays and outings as well as just fellowshipping with them. I get to drive and pamper them as well as giving many of them socializing & cultural opportunities they would not have otherwise. This is one of the simple things I miss, getting to go out for a meal, checking out a movie or concert, or going to a museum. It is wonderful seeing many of the activities through their eyes, it is almost the same as seeing things through a child’s eyes, except you can see the wonderful memories these types of activities elicit.

Justin Cost, musician/producer: I’m looking forward to eating out, going to festivals and playing music again, but more than anything being around other people to collaborate with, record with, and share experiences with. Going over to a family member’s house is becoming a distant memory, but with vaccinations increasing and cases decreasing, I think we will have the outcome we have been looking for by the middle to end of the year. My musician friends in Dayton all can’t wait for the bars to be packed again and live music going strong. I’ve spoken to several people who already have gigs lined up. My family is looking forward to going on vacation. We all love the beach and try to go at least once a year. We went last year before the pandemic hit in February and can remember hearing about the coronavirus at the hotel on the way up and on the way down.

Jerry A. O’Ryan, respiratory therapist: What people will be looking forward to once this COVID thing is truly over? The song My Favorite Things from The Sound of Music comes to mind.

Evenings at the Fraze with cold beer and wine,

Preceded with Marion’s Pizza, even if there’s a long line;

Meeting up with friends totally maskless, no social distancing makes it taskless;

After the show on to Bill’s Donuts, feeling like it’s your town again and you own it.

Real life shopping, not always online, makes my wife happy and feeling so fine;

When the COVID’s gone and we’re all good, there’ll be a celebration in my neighborhood!