Well, we are back. With this July edition and an August edition planned to follow (rather than our customary single summer edition), we happily return to our printing roots. Our office has been professionally cleaned, masks and disinfectants procured, schedules created to allow appropriate distancing, and safety protocols adopted, all to allow our volunteers to return to our small office and perform the tasks required to generate a printed newspaper.
Any reflection of the virus’ effects in our town must begin with a painful remembrance of those in our community who lost their lives. That is joined with condolences to those who lost loved ones. We also express gratitude to our first responders and other essential employees, who risked their own safety to help others. We thank our town and school officials who, to the best of their ability, attempted to keep us updated and safe, and provided needed services. And, as always, thanks to the public and private agencies such as Suffield Community Aid and the Suffield Senior Center that saw to the needs of our neediest.
As we prepared this issue, I reflected on the past few months. In doing so I was proud of our little town newspaper, and of our community. In 1976, the Grateful Dead released its second compilation album, appropriately entitled What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been. In my mind that aptly describes the past few months. The quarantine began, and our office closed, just when our staff would normally be reporting in larger numbers, to transform the various submitted draft articles, columns, letters to the editor, and pictures into an edited, formatted, proofread and printable newspaper. With that impossible, our first decision was that we would continue to be a source of information to our community by publishing an online edition that, for the first time, was not a digital representation of our published paper. With the help of our IT consultant we set up remote server service so that a small group could work remotely and, with significant effort by a greatly reduced staff, print online editions. Next, although advertising is our only meaningful source of revenue, since many of our advertisers were undoubtedly hurting financially during the shutdown, we decided to publish advertisements online without advertising charge. To keep our readers informed about the virus, our online edition published updates relating to safety throughout the month. As chairman I was proud of what the paper did to bridge the gap until we could again publish what you are reading now.
We should be proud of our community, and the numerous acts of community and kindness we observed. I remember the parade of vehicles that circled The Suffield House and Suffield By the River, so its staff, and the residents, deprived of the ability to be visited by loved ones, knew they had not been forgotten. I was proud of the efforts made to allow our seniors to graduate with the best possible graduation under the circumstances, and on a smaller scale, the police cars, firetrucks, ambulances and cars parading by the homes of youngsters celebrating a birthday without benefit of a birthday party. I was proud of our citizens who either posted signs of thanks or drew the message on sidewalks. I was proud of our local service organizations which donated to local restaurants to provide free meals to first responders, and who helped pack and distribute facemasks and helped in other ways as well.
While we celebrate the resumption of our print edition, this partial return to normal does not mean all is well or solve our problems. It appears that the virus will be with us for a bit, and we will have to stay vigilant and demonstrate “personal responsibility” (as we frequently preach to our children) to make sure we do what we can to avoid unnecessarily increasing the risks to ourselves or others. And, sadly, the horrific video from Minnesota, and reports of all too many similar events, remind us of the need for honest reflection, education, and improvement.
Nevertheless, this publication is a sign of hope and gives us the opportunity to continue to improve as a community. If you want to share a story about the quarantine, or praise someone’s efforts, please write and submit an article by the deadline of July 15. It does not need to be Shakespearian, only heartfelt! And I suspect that we may have a shortage of “Where in the World Pictures” for a bit. So, if you have a picture you took during the past few months that you are willing to share, send it along.
Challenges remain, but it is good to be back.
The Suffield Observer Chairman