Quarantining solo in my downtown Manhattan apartment since mid-March, life in lockdown has been lonely. Like so many of us, I long for my old life, the people in it, and the vibrancy of the now-quiet city I call home. And like so many of us, fighting lockdown loneliness has forced me to get creative.
It has also forced me to get outside. It is there, in the darkened storefronts and empty streets, that I’ve found much-needed connection to the fellow New Yorkers I so dearly miss. Pausing at windows and doorways, I’ve found comfort in the messages they’ve left behind, moved by the quiet simplicity of some (“Sorry, we are closed for a while.”), the humor of others (“Shut happens!”), and the emotion of many (“Note to self: I can cry, I can scream, but I cannot give up.”) There are heartbreaking announcements of the shuttering of decades-old businesses, offers of help to neighbors in need, rainbows painted by children, expressions of gratitude to our heroic frontline workers, song lyrics, battle cries, and love letters to the New Yorker in all of us.
I began documenting these signs and sharing them via Instagram with the hope of lifting spirits and spreading love at a time when we need it most. Along the way, I’ve found comfort not just in the signs themselves, but in those now reading them along with me. Friends and strangers send photos of the signs they’re finding in their own neighborhoods, and pass along personal stories behind the signs I’ve shared: “This is where I had my first date with my husband,” or “My niece is a doctor and I was hoping you could share this to help encourage others to clap for her at 7pm.”
Each day, sign after sign continues to reaffirm the spirit and resilience of New Yorkers, and of the power of community during times of crisis. “Together we will see it through,” reads a banner on the front door of an 8th Avenue apartment building in Chelsea. Though physically separated from these neighbors of mine, I now feel more connected to them than ever.