A lot has changed in the lives of all Utahns over the past 14 days in the wake of COVID-19. Schools have temporarily closed, performance spaces have gone dark and neighborhood bars and restaurants—often thought to be the pulse of a community—have shuttered, leaving those who worked in them in an anxious state of limbo. Looking for solace and perhaps a word of wisdom, City Weekly reached out to a cross-section of notable Utahns with the same question: What's the biggest lesson you've learned over the past two weeks? Surprisingly, given the hecticness of the new normal, all 10 got back to us by press time. From displaced business owners learning to practice gratitude for the now, to Sen. Luz Escamilla, who recently shared her positive status and Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, who continues to be amazed by Salt Lakers' caring spirit, the group's answers were passionate, heartfelt and enlightening.
Jenny Wilson, Salt Lake County mayor
"Our community is strong and people truly step up in a time of need. Having had two separate disasters declared in the past two weeks, I've realized the significance of having prepared in advance and having the resources available to allow Salt Lake County to be on the forefront of earthquake recovery and the response to COVID-19. We are connected as a community, one city, county and state, and together we can take this on."
Luz Escamilla, Senate Minority Whip
"Facing uncertainty individually with your healthcare situation but then facing uncertainty as a family and then as a community ... I've learned the power of prayer, for sure, and the idea that people care—the outpour of love and support has been incredible. We've been, as a family, dealing with this in our own home, there's seven of us—my mom, my husband, myself and then two teenagers and two toddlers—and it's been this rollercoaster of symptoms and testing for more than two weeks. The kids have been on lockdown for three weeks already, and through this process I've learned how strong we are as a community, as humans, but also how scary it can be. The uncertainty is the worst feeling."
Shireen Ghorbani, Salt Lake County Councilwoman
"I'm learning the limits of both leadership and personal responsibility. Both are being stretched and tested at this time. The grace, bravery and kindness of so many Utahns is also on full display. Your life and your parents' and grandparents' are not disposable to me. Your small business and your rent payment are important to me. How we decide to care for and show up for each other is reflective of how we care for ourselves. The social safety net was already thin for too many in our community, and I hope this virus will focus more of our state leadership on that reality."
Rob Moolman, Utah Pride Center executive director
"I have seen the resilience of individuals that has inspired me. I have been amazed at the creativity of my team in the ways in which they adapted and even improved our Utah Pride Center's resources and programs. I have been constantly reflecting on how interconnected our world is, and how much we yearn for that connection. We are seeing people reach out to each other in the absence of touch and presence, some are managing to make that connection, but many are being left out. I both fear for our communities that are alone and marginalized, while also marvelling at ways in which communities and strangers are managing to come together."
Lex Scott, Black Lives Matter organizer
"In the past two weeks, I have seen the best of humanity, and the worst of humanity. I have seen the definition of 'essential' change. I have seen companies profit from a crisis and families lose everything. In the past two weeks, I have seen the entire world change in every way possible. Also I have seen the privileged become uncomfortable and become aware of situations that have always existed. It is a privilege to not have noticed a broken system. It seems like the cries of help from marginalized people have been amplified, yet are only heard now because of the discomfort of the privileged."
Shandra Benito, COVID-19 Mutual Aid SLC page manager
"The biggest lesson I've learned is perhaps one I already knew, which is that we are not independent. We as people are interdependent with one another; those of us with disabilities have always known that. Because of that, the community of people with disabilities has been able to step up and mobilize, not just to support one another, but also our broader community. We must realize that we all depend on one another, and we have a responsibility to ensure that all of our community, and all of our neighbors, have their basic needs and rights met."
Moudi Sbeity, Laziz Kitchen owner
"Practicing gratitude for the present moment by letting go of the fear of the future and the memory of yesterday. There is so much we can accomplish within ourselves and for people around us if we take notice of what we can do now."
Bridget Gordon, The Green Pig Pub owner
"This is what I've learned in the last couple of weeks: Not to take things for granted—life, love and business—[all while] learning to live in a difficult time."
Ben Winslow, FOX 13 reporter
"The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything, including how we even report on it (for example, you're getting a good look inside your local news anchor's house and their taste in décor as we try to stay home and exercise social distancing). Local news is more necessary than ever to inform people about what's happening in our communities with information and facts. As people become increasingly stressed and afraid, I've noticed the tendency for people to lash out at each other, online and in-person. I'm learning that we all need to take a breath, practice some humanity and kindness, and remember that we're all in this together. Oh, and stay home and wash your hands."