Molly McGrath strolls on the pebble-covered path adjacent to the park. The yearning of a life long gone is sprawled across her face like the cover of a magazine, and her sandals, torn and tan, slap the ground with rapid force.
“I would go to school every day and see my friends,” she says, “and I had basketball and track, but that got cancelled because of coronavirus.”
The eight-year-old is one of the millions whose lives have changed drastically since the start of Covid-19.
Her bubbly, energetic aura and crystal blue eyes tell the sad story of reality redacted. She recalls the days of the past, in February, where life was nothing more than invitations to birthday parties and meaningless adventures with fellow friends.
Her childhood innocence, even in the face of global terror, remains. The 4 p.m. sunlight glistens on her pale white face, and her blonde hair and smile stay bright amid her evident disappointment.
From her 8-year-old point of view, Molly defines coronavirus as best as she can. “It’s a virus that can affect people, and they can die from it. And there are different kinds of coronavirus.”
Molly’s eyes flutter back and forth, and she admires two young girls chasing each other on the playground. They crawl up the short stairway and stumble down the slide. Molly’s mother won’t allow her to play on the equipment.
She says that lately, “I usually go on walks, ‘cuz we’re not allowed to go out anywhere. The hard thing is I go to the park, but we’re not allowed to go on the playground.”
Molly might be young, but her understanding and acceptance of coronavirus are evident.
Janet Roberto greets the drivers with a welcoming smile. One by one, cars pull into the parking lot of Good Samaritan Parish, windows down, to accept food donations provided by the locals.
Roberto, 47, has been working hard during the pandemic to keep her family stabilized and her boredom minimized.
According to Roberto, the biggest change to her life since COVID “was my job restructure and figuring out where I fit in. And the kids being home, and making sure that their schooling is done.”
Roberto, with red hair, freckled cheeks, and blue eyes, takes a passionate pause, then continues: “And not having a purpose; all of this free time, what do you do with it?”
After countless boring days and nights at home, Roberto decided to ask for a new position within her job as a Youth Leader for the church. Thus, she began helping out with a newly formed volunteer program, spending the majority of her weekdays packaging boxes of food for the less fortunate.
Working with the church, she says, is “part of my job position.”
Beaver County is the home of the old, brick church where Roberto is employed. Upon entering, volunteers walk carefully down a short, dark staircase leading to an open room. The ceiling on the left corner is falling apart, and the tired basement greets its visitors with the scent of swirling cinnamon churros.
This is where the mother of two spends her days, and she’s proud of her work thus far.
As days become weeks, and weeks become months, Roberto has learned to make the most of the strict social distancing policies implemented across the U.S.
Her favorite part of being home, admittedly, is “family time and road trips.” We went to Clarion, we went to Ohiopyle. It’s not all the running; it’s the quiet. It’s us determining our schedule.”
Roberto also expresses her worry for those in need. She scratches her forehead, saying, “My big concern is the people who are isolated that have an addiction, mental illness, and abusive situations.”
Like most people, Roberto misses her family’s summer vacation, where she, along with her husband Denny and two children, spend a week getting burnt in Virginia Beach heat. She remembers days at amusement parks, coffee dates with close friends, and of course, she remembers hugs.
The memories might be fuzzy and faded, but Roberto smiles nostalgically for all that once was.
9 p.m. strikes the clock, and slowly, she makes her way to bed. Come morning, she’ll be back at the church, packaging boxes all over again.
Much sooner in the year than she expected — Abby Sterling finds herself in the O’Hare International Airport. She’s on her second flight of the journey that leads to Pittsburgh, her home. Alabama now feels like a faded memory, but to follow her dreams, it was worth it.
She now finds a seat, suitcases in hand, and waits for her flight to be called.
“Before the coronavirus,” Sterling says, “I was attending college.” She has a double-major in news media and English with a concentration in sports.
On weekdays at the University of Alabama, Sterling, 19, lived the typical college life: homework, classes, and of course, procrastination.
“My weekends were often spent with my friends or my boyfriend, who would frequently come to town,” Sterling says. She’d also enjoy nights out for date parties or big events with her sorority sisters.
Lately, she spends her days at home with her parents and sister. After all, there’s not much else to do.
“Life has changed a lot,” she says, “Although some parts have been very stressful, I am very blessed to have a father with a stable income and to be surrounded by lots of supportive families.”
Sterling, with long, fluffy brown hair and an olive complexion, spends time in her bedroom, petting Buttercream, her cat. “One thing I miss most is the freedom we had.”
In Pennsylvania, where Sterling was born and raised, protests have risen in order to diminish lockdown systems across the country.
Despite these protests, Sterling doesn’t see an end to lockdowns anytime soon.
“I think the world we live in will never be the same,” she says. “I think that many people will be scared and will take extra precautions doing things that were so natural before the virus.”
Sterling is one of the millions who attend college in the United States. Come autumn, if life goes in her favor, maybe she’ll be packing her bags for Alabama. She can only hope.