At one shopping center in southwestern Queens, the large planters that normally beautify its plaza have been neglected this year, with volunteer plants like mugwort, fleabane and lamb’s quarters thriving where the usual bright garden cultivars were simply never planted.
But also sprouting from the unkempt weeds are signs of hope — literally. Signs with messages such as “With Courage We Prevail” and “Thank You Healthcare Workers.”
That’s how it is in Queens in this year unlike any other, just as it is across much of the country and world. Everything is different, nothing is as we’d want it to be, but unexpected silver linings illumine the edges of the clouds.
It’s those silver linings that we highlight in this week’s special supplement to the Queens Chronicle, our 23rd annual Celebration of Queens special edition: Meeting the Crisis.
Inside the supplement you’ll meet many of the people who’ve remained “Queens Strong” throughout the catastrophe, whether by providing for our neighbors in their time of need or just surviving the horrors of COVID-19 — and, in one case, doing both, as a leading emergency room doctor.
Meeting the Crisis starts with the tale of Franklin Diaz of Corona, who took himself to NewYork-Presbyterian Queens hospital and ended up staying there for 37 days. Buoying his recovery were both the healthcare workers who epitomized the concept of tender, loving care during his stay and his family. Diaz got to hear more than 2,000 recordings of his loved ones offering their prayers and hopes for his recovery.
His story represents those of thousands of other survivors.
Next we examine the Richmond Hill-based River Fund, a nonprofit that gave 5.2 million pounds of food to the needy over 16 weeks. Although focused on Queens, its efforts fed people from as far away as Staten Island and New Jersey.
Dr. Teresa Amato, the director of emergency medicine at Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Forest Hills, tells us in her own words how the hospital handled the flood of coronavirus patients, and how The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” was played overhead every time one was discharged.
A number of seniors talk about how they’ve thrived online as the pandemic has kept them physically isolated.
You’ll learn how the manager of a Key Food in Ozone Park shifted operations to better serve the community as his store became the only grocery in the area to remain open.
Another food aid story goes into detail on the efforts of City Harvest, Citymeals on Wheels, the Food Bank for New York City and Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens to provide sustenance to those in need during the crisis.
You’ll meet Arthur Wirth, a teacher who got the virus and came out the other side with a renewed appreciation for life.
Two stories focus in on the business community. One reports on what a variety of retailers and other small shops have been doing to stay afloat as the economy has cratered. Another looks to the future of the kinds of venues that thrive on crowds — movie theaters, nightclubs and gyms.
Lastly you’ll hear the tale of Dr. Shi-Wen Lee, vice chairman of emergency medicine at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center. In that role, he said, he’s “exposed to everything,” and that included the virus. After a two-week battle, he was back doing all he could to save others as he had been saved.
These are just a few of the countless tales of sacrifice, heroism, fear and worry that could be told during the age of the coronavirus. We hope you find them illuminating. And we hope that just as some of those plants we deride as weeds bring unexpected beauty when their natural, unadulterated flowers suddenly bloom, something new and unexpected but still wonderful will emerge from the shadows of fear and uncertainty under which we all have been living for months.