During the days that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I felt the need to grab my camera and head for New York City. I then thought better of it by deciding not to go. I thought it would be best to just stay out of the way. I started to notice American flags being flown everywhere in my hometown of Greece, New York and started photographing them. Although my anger over the attacks never went away, photographing these beautiful flags became very therapeutic for me personally. I began to feel my anger changed to pride.
My fellow Greece residents and the scenes I was photographing, were really a small sample of the patriotic outpouring happening all across our nation at the time. I called this series of photos, Our Nation-Our Town-Our Flag.
Fast forward almost twenty years later and we’re confronted with another major event, but this time it’s a global issue. In some ways, the coronavirus outbreak is this generation’s 9/11, but it’s different. The coronavirus isn’t taking place in a specific location like at the Twin Towers in New York City or at the Pentagon in Washington DC or in a Pennsylvania field. It’s a crisis that is in our own neighborhoods and in neighborhoods around the world.
I didn’t intend for this to turn into a photo essay. I just wanted to get outside and into the fresh air after being cooped up in the house for several days in an effort to practice social distancing, but as soon as I posted some of my photos on Facebook, I received encouraging comments. Some of my friends wanted to see more, so from a few random pictures, grew a full photo-documentary project I'm calling, Our World-Our Town-Our Health.
As time passed from 9/11, many flags were taken down as our collective patriotism seemed to also pass. My Our Nation-Our Town-Our Flag project has now become a historical record. I still get a sense of pride in our country when I see those photographs. I look at the reaction my hometown had back then and think to myself - this was really nice. I feel this time though, that this series of photographs will remind me some day - this was really crazy.
March 26: The parking lot for the food court at the Greece Ridge Center Mall is packed with cars. This picture was taken at the height of lunch hour, but due to social distancing concerns, the mall was closed and deserted.
The first known case of coronavirus in the Town of Greece was an employee who worked on the Arcadia school campus. The town immediately closed the entire school district on March 13, which prompted all public schools to be shut down in Monroe County.
March 27: My grandson Lucas blew me a kiss as I took a picture of him practicing social distancing with me. His preschool, Trinity Lamb, recognized the need for social distancing early on as they were one of the first schools in our area to close.
March 26: Dave Palumbo, Owner of The Original Char Broil House on Island Cottage Road, is exhausted and frustrated. His dinning room has closed so he and his staff has had to work hard and fast to keep the business going. They quickly set up a drive through window and two lanes for his patrons to use. Although their new way of doing business is working and customers have been happy with it, their improvised system isn’t perfect and it’s causing stress to him and his crew. As Dave and I parted ways he said, “we’ll get through it”.
March 31: Aldi, Mt. Read Boulevard. Diane Schmitt wanted to let me know that she’s not hoarding. She hasn’t been to the grocery store in over two weeks and she’s running out of necessities. Donned in a mask and gloves, Diane also wanted me to know that she’s not infected and she’s just trying to be safe.
April 3: Ordinarily the Macarollin Gourmet Mac and Cheese food truck would be part of the festival scene but instead Owner Chuck Andrews finds himself in the parking lot of the Imperial Manor Apartments on Stone Road. Andrews has had to change his business model by going to where the people are and these days, that means going to where they live.
Thanks to social media, apartment managers from around the Town of Greece have caught wind of what he has been doing. He’s now booked at several other apartment complexes around town for the next two weeks. In addition to providing convenience to apartment dwellers Andrews said that he’s noticed other benefits during these days of isolation. Neighbors are engaging in much needed socializing, from a distance, while waiting around his truck for their food.
April 7 – 7:30 AM: 390 South is the main route out of the Town of Greece toward downtown Rochester. Morning rush hour traffic was much lighter than usual as many workers are being told to stay home.
April 7: Ryan Chalmers and Stephanie Woodard of Wembly Road are concerned neighbors. Ryan said with the coronavirus’ negative impact on jobs and the economy, they thought it might be a good idea to offer items, free of charge, to those in need. Everything from paper towels to canned fruit and soup is inside their community cupboard. They also thought it might be fun to set up a game as well so neighbors can remain at a distance and still interact with one another as they stroll by. The two chairs serve as a place to set small stones to tally an answer to a daily question. Ryan says the game has been a big hit!
April 8: She wasn’t happy about having her picture taken so I had to kind of sneak up on her to capture this. Kim Territo (my wife) sewing masks, in our Stone Road home, for the women who are handing out lunches at the school.