York Region residents wait in line for a COVID-19 vaccination at a mass vaccination site for residents 80 years and older, in Richmond Hill, Ont. on Monday, March 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

York Region residents wait in line for a COVID-19 vaccination at a mass vaccination site for residents 80 years and older, in Richmond Hill, Ont. on Monday, March 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

The moment everything changed: Canadians remember when reality of COVID-19 set in

Many people felt uprooted and confused as the ‘new normal’ set in

One year after the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, the Canadian Press asked people to share their memories of when they realized the crisis was about to change everything.

What a mother’s love can’t fix

Liz Rivard says her daughter planned to ring in her 29th birthday on March 13, 2020 with a weekend’s worth of celebrations.

Then, one after the next, every event Delaney Rivard had planned was cancelled.

Rivard said her daughter, who has autism, needs structure to help get her through her day.

The Calgary retiree cried for the first time in recent memory when that structure was erased.

“Moms are always supposed to be able to fix everything,” she said. “And there was nothing I could do.”

Rivard said she’s since been impressed by how community groups have shifted online to give her daughter activities to look forward to.

She said Delaney Rivard is ringing in her 30th birthday this week with a princess party on her driveway.

Empty aisles

For Jessica Alexanderson, a trip to the grocery store used to feel like an excursion, not an errand.

The 40-year-old social service worker in London, Ont., would take her time browsing through the aisles.

But once the pandemic took hold, Alexanderson said she was taken aback to find many of the shelves suddenly bare, a sight that reminded her of the shortages in her home country of Mexico.

“It’s not a thing that you see here,” said Alexanderson. “I told my husband that it felt like those disaster movies.”

Since then, grocery shopping has become a stressful chore.

As she looks to become a permanent resident of Canada, Alexanderson said she has to be extra cautious about COVID-19 so she can continue working at an addiction treatment centre.

“We don’t have a safety net,” she said. “If you get sick, there’s no one here for you.”

A shutdown in the city that never sleeps

Stephen Shirt felt apprehensive about travelling from Calgary to New York City in early March last year.

But at the time, there were only a few hundred COVID-19 cases in the city, so he decided to go forward with the trip.

While sightseeing, Shirt got word that New York had declared a state of emergency as people started lining up outside of stores to panic shop.

“It’s kind of a traumatic experience, being away from home and having the world change,” said Shirt, 36. “I was away from home and away from my support.”

After scrambling to board a flight back home, Shirt said he served a 26-day quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19, with some symptoms lingering until August.

“I wish I would have listened to my intuition and cancelled the trip.”

READ MORE: B.C. relaxes outdoor gathering rules, allows kids to have playdates

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Just Posted

Pictured above is a BCEHS re-enactment of paramedics attending an overdose. Toxic illicit drugs have claimed the lives of 498 British Columbians in the first three months of 2021, said the BC Coroners Service. (BCEHS photo)
Increase in overdose cases a concern: Fort St. James RCMP

Police issue public health announcement

Jim Woodruff from the Vanderhoof Curling Club has won volunteer of the year by Curl BC. (Photo submitted)
Jim Woodruff awarded Curl BC Volunteer of the Year

“It really is fun making nice ice.”

A groundbreaking ceremony for Cluculz Lake’s new fire hall will take place Tuesday, June 22. The current fire hall is able to only store one apparatus. (Photo submitted)
New fire hall on the way for Cluculz Lake

Approximate $950,000 facility anticipated to be completed by this fall

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

A COVID-19 patient receives oxygen outside a hospital in Jammu, India, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (AP/Channi Anand)
B.C. donates $500K to Red Cross COVID-19 relief efforts in India

The money will provide oxygen cylinders and ambulances for patients in communities grappling with the virus

Superintendent Aaron Paradis, community services officer with the Surrey RCMP, during a media availability about a recent drug bust in Port Coquitlam. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Police seize 13 million ‘potentially fatal doses’ of pure fentanyl at B.C. drug lab

The evidence was seized at large, illicit drug manufacturing site in Port Coquitlam

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth debates the province’s latest measure to control crime, March 10, 2021. The legislation allows police to impound vehicles used to transport weapons and further restricts sale of vehicle and body armour. (B.C. legislature video)
B.C. seeking ways to ‘name and shame’ gangsters, minister says

Mike Farnworth appeals to family members to talk to police

Jonathan Prest had to climb way up to the top of a dead red cedar tree to rescue a terrified cat, but he made it up and down successfully. (Facebook photos)
Tree cutter rescues cat stuck 100 feet up a dead and dried-out cedar

Jonathan Prest put himself in extreme peril to get a terrified cat out of a dangerous situation

The Greater Victoria School District continues to face backlash over its wording and approach to Indigenous learners in its 2021-2022 budget talks. (Black Press Media file photo)
School district’s approach to Indigenous learners leaves Victoria teachers ‘disgusted’

Backlash grows over ‘pattern of colonial thinking permeating the leadership’

Italian-Canadian prisoners at the Kananaskis prisoner of war camp in Alberta. (University of Calgary/Contributed)
Italian moved to Okanagan with hope; he ended up being sent to a WWII internment camp

Raymond Lenzi shares his grandfather’s story ahead of Canada’s planned formal apology to Italian-Canadians

Then-minister Rich Coleman, escorted by Victoria Police, makes his way to the east wing amid a protest blocking the legislature entrances before the throne speech in Victoria, B.C., Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. money laundering inquiry testimony ends today with reappearance of Rich Coleman

Responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, Coleman been recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month

Colin Dowler rests in hospital recuperating from wounds suffered from a grizzly bear attack north of Campbell River. He was able to end the struggle by stabbing the bear in the neck with a knife like the one he is holding. Photo submitted
‘Bad-ass dude that took on a grizzly bear’ doesn’t let 2019 B.C. attack bring him down

Campbell River’s Colin Dowler gets on with his life as his rehabilitation continues

Most Read