When Publisher Art Hall suggested I leave the shelter of home to photograph the effects of Covid-19 on parts of Cape May County, I rejoiced. It meant leaving the four walls that have become a virtual cell since March 21.
When March 26 dawned sunny, with a deep blue sky and not a hint of rain, that was the day to dust off the cameras.
It was surreal from start to finish. I began with the County Library on Mechanic Street, ordinarily clogged with cars on a Thursday morning around 10:30. Instead, it was like a Sunday morning, or snowless blizzard that kept cars off the road.
Closed, as were all county buildings due to the invisible germ that has claimed lives around the globe, there was a sign posted telling the unknowing of the reality.
I snapped a few shots by the book return, which the library chieftains asked not to be used to return books until this warp is “over.”
Mechanic Street was almost empty, save for some cars and delivery trucks.
East on Mechanic Street to Our Lady of the Angels Church, where daily and Sunday Masses have been canceled by Bishop Dennis Sullivan. How strange, to see the listing of Masses, yet knowing that none of the faithful could attend and offer prayers up to heaven.
Instead, a man was power washing the front steps of the church. Flowering trees in the parking lot made a unique frame for a photo of the religious edifice so bereft of people.
Then, back to Main Street. No car, save mine, was parked there to photograph the Superior Court building, Historic Courthouse, and First United Methodist Church.
A solitary body sat in the sun in front of the courthouse.
The sign in front of the church proclaimed, “All church activities cancelled until further notice.”
A couple of women were on the sidewalk, one jogging, the other walking. North on Main Street, scant traffic and a nearly-empty NJ Transit bus.
Onward to the County Park and Zoo, normally a beehive of activity, especially this time of year when there are many schools that book class trips to the popular place.
Barricades before the main entrance bore dire warnings as if from a radiation zone:
RESTRICTED AREA Do Not Enter. Do Not Enter Park Closed.
To think, this is the place that has made a name for Cape May County. Visitors from around the world recall Cape May County, not for its beaches and boardwalks, but instead for its free zoo. Now barred from public use by governor’s orders.
Perhaps the animals wonder why there are no laughing children, crying babies or ogling eyes watching their every move. To be sure, the critters are being well-tended, but the crowds are absent.
Over at Crest Haven Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, where virtual visitation has replaced face-to-face visits by family and friends, was a sign similar to one at the library.
The Technical School’s parking lot, usually filled to overflowing, was barren.
How can one photograph nothing? I mused, yet that is what I was asked to do, to record for posterity this moment in time when nothing was normal, not even school days and traffic.
The drive-thru window at Reef’s Family Pharmacy was full of business, as cars lined up to fetch their apothecary needs through the window, so as to minimize human contact.
The Freeman Douglass Park in Lower Township, ordinarily open for sporting activities and exercise was closed, its gate had two stop signs and an explanation that the place was closed til further notice.
The electronic sign in front of Lower Cape May Regional High School kept up its endless message, that the school was closed until further notice.
The Cape May-Lewes Ferry, with severely reduced crossings, was nearly deserted. No southbound vehicles and signs that ordered passengers to stay in their vehicles were what met the eye.
The sidewalk along Bay Drive, in North Cape May, was the morning’s busiest place. Walkers and joggers, all practicing social distancing, were heading in both directions.
St. John Neumann Church, on Townbank Road, had a sign that informed the faithful Parish Offices and Buildings closed.
Historic Cold Spring Village, like the county park, was closed, which translates to no class trips, and hence, no income during this most important time of the year.
Thus ended my trip around the lower Cape to photograph nothing. How odd, this time, nothing was something very important to be captured for eternity. Emptiness meant that the economic engine had virtually stopped in this county.
For a moment in time, our world stopped. Regardless of our age, we will long remember the sounds of this unwelcome silence.
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