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The New Normal Across A Small NJ Town

The New Normal Across A Small NJ Town

Welcome to the “New Normal” in a small New Jersey town, in the first days following the arrival the novel coronavirus. Covid-19 began as a small outbreak in Wuhan, China several months back and has now spread across the globe, hitting some areas and countries much harder then others.

Photo by Brian Hester
Photo by Brian Hester

Residents in all communities are being asked to practice a new behavior called “Social Distancing” which is as the name states a new means of keeping physical distance between all humans. In public the new norm is to remain at least 6 feet away from other. Hand washing has become a standard thing, although not sure why that wasn’t already a thing?

Photo by Brian Hester

Supermarkets and essential services that are permitted to remain open have adapted somewhat by placing markers on lines and ques as well as providing audio messages throughout. Somehow and thank the Lord, liquor stores have been deemed essential. Not Houses of Worship, but liquor stores. Mind you I haven’t attended a house of worship as a member of a congregation in over a decade, but I have my own reasons for that. The last house of worship that I did visit was as a tourist at Notre Dame Paris, France, Sunday April 14, 2019. The next evening, I watched in horror along the banks of the Seine, standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with the Parisians it burned to the ground. Click for coverage. I digress.

Photo by Brian Hester
Photo by Brian Hester

Just thought I would stop and insert some of the nature photos I captured while walking the lake. A small distraction from the events of the day.

Photo by Brian Hester
Photo by Brian Hester
Photo by Brian Hester

I have been a freelance photographer for a decade in Northern NJ and at times in NYC. I began that journey covering community events, 100th birthdays and ribbon cuttings for North Jersey Media Group and many of their fine weekly publications; Wayne Today, Passaic Valley Today The Verona-Cedar Grove Times, The South Berginite, The Clifton Journal and occasionally I would contribute to one of the two major dailies held by NJMG, The Record or The Herald. It was a most rewarding experience. It paid $25 / assignment and somehow, I was making almost $4k a year doing it. I still remember my first A-1, which is print slang for a Front Page, above the fold of course, on the cover of The Wayne Today. It was a 5K race in town and I had three great shots. In print. To touch and show off and hang on the dang wall. I was so pumped. I did all my freelance assignments while holding full time, demanding careers that had zero to do to with newspaper photos.

Photo by Brian Hester

The same day, Thursday July 26, 2012 I was showing off my front cover on The Wayne Today to everyone I knew and total strangers that I did not know on the PATH train. As I made my way through lower Manhattan, I stopped for a smoke and met a new friend and we encountered a man stealing a woman’s cell phone right in front of us. I gave chase with my new friend, his name was Chase…..true! We helped catch the thief and recovered the phone. I got my photos and a video to the NY Post and went home and called it a day. The next day those photos were printed in the NY Post, ½ page, with a cool story. I digress.

Over the years I have had the opportunity to cover many breaking as well as heartbreaking news events. The Bike Path attack on Halloween in NYC, Notre Dame burning in Paris, Memorials for small children. I have also been very fortunate to cover many positive public events in the greatest city in the world. The St. Paddy’s Day Parade, The Halloween Parade, All the Parades, City Council Meetings, and Christmas Tree Lightings. I live in northern NJ and have commuted to NYC on and off for the past 20 years. Most recently I have been covering Broadway and The Arts in NYC for Times Square Chronicle’s t2conline.com.

Back to the small town where I am now spending all my time and the new normal. I feel like I know most people in my neighborhood. As I have not been in NYC due to the virus, I have taken to capturing images of the pandemic and its effects on life on my town. I see many people walking around the lake near my home as they practice social distancing. Families walking in closer groups, most likely not as concerned about transmission between relatives that already reside in the same house. People are being discouraged from gathering with friends or others while outdoors. The basketball nets at the local courts were removed and the parking lots blocked off to stop people from gathering and congregating at those location. Officials are asking all non-essential people to reman home.

Photo by Brian Hester
Photo by Brian Hester
Photo by Brian Hester

But what of the local neighborhood in the virtual world? Social Media has allowed communities to connect in new ways over the past decade. Social media has also provided a platform for somewhat anonymous posting since its inception. Recently, due to coronavirus, I have noticed a pattern perhaps more dangerous then the pandemic itself, of neighbor and friends attacking each other and taking sides along political party line. Making hatful useless comments online. Going back and forth, engaged in arguments that have no right answer. I have been most guilty of this in the past week. Blaming the administration for failing to take the threat seriously and blaming both parties for failing to come up with a plan that you could agree on in troubled time. The fact the so many in DC sold off stock in advance of this crash. So many things to be mad about. So many things to divide us. I realized I was wrong. Now more than ever we all need to bond together. We need to learn that the adage of “not talking politics” is actually a very bad idea. We do need to talk politics – in a civil, organized, and reasonable and respectful manner, like adults. It’s OK to disagree. We all need to learn from this pandemic that we are all in the same boat, on the same planet and have the same basic needs. We, humanity, need to focus more on building and maintaining bridges than building walls.

Photo by Brian Hester

While I have remained busy, behind the lens, I have been not been posting on my site nor sharing for our readers on Broadway. My last post was on the day the theaters closed, March 12, 2020. A review for A Soldier’s Play. At times, in this new normal, I became so overwhelmed at so many things, my anger at the administration for total ineptness, my fears for loved ones that were struggling with the illness, my personal all or nothing attitude, my own long term mental health issues such as depression and anxiety stemming for several traumatic childhood experiences, my sudden lack of available mental health resource, (these have been addressed), that I became frozen and seemingly unable to write a word. For weeks. I kept on documenting. Thank God for my cameras. This morning a good friend lost his 98-year-old father to this virus. At 98, Charlie was a living legend, born and raised in NYC’s Hells’ Kitchen, a Boxing Champ, he and wife raised a dozen children including my friend Johnny. Losing Charlie to coronavirus just struck me as so ironic. It made me see what he did for almost 100 years. What can be done. My first article since Coronavirus, Covid-19 struck NYC is inspired by and dedicated to Charlie. For the record, if it wasn’t for this beast my guess is Charlie could have easily lived to 110. I hope to continue writing, making photos, and being as positive as I can. R.IP. Charlie.

Photo by Brian Hester

Rest in Peace Charlie

Family

Brian Hester is a New York City based freelance photographer covering any nature of event including but not limited to; breaking news, sports, entertainment, fashion, nature and whatever may catch his wandering eye. Since 2011 Brian, has been covering community events and high school sports for North Jersey Media Group and their successor Gannett USA Today. His clients include Rutgers University and Monmouth Athletics. ​You can see more of his work at www.brianbehindthelens.com

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