In a week of fear and kindness in CNY, we are all quarantined in this together

Originally posted on, Marnie Eisenstadt, March 20, 2020
To read, please click here: In a week of fear and kindness in CNY, we are all quarantined in this together

East Syracuse, N.Y. — The center of the building is calm. The light is low. Every office has a sliding glass door but most are cracked open.

The workers wear headsets and talk in calm voices, but shreds of the grief, anxiety and loss that is piled so high right now slide out.

The other end of those lines are people struggling across Central New York and beyond. The callers need everything from food and baby formula to a gentle voice and basic information. An elderly caller wanted to know if it was safe to go to the laundromat. Another caller had lost a job and couldn’t pay rent.

The call center at Contact Community Services answers 13 hotlines, including a suicide prevention hotline and 211, a spot for non-emergency crisis calls. On a usual day, they get 250 calls. Between midnight Wednesday and midnight Thursday, that total was 989.

Cheryl Giarrusso has worked at the call and crisis intervention center for 17 years. She has never seen anything like it.

That’s because there’s never been anything like it.

Our lives have been upended in a way that’s unfathomable. As soon as we think we can understand, another stack of dominoes cascades down. Every cough is a threat. The hugs that calm us are the very thing that could make us sick. Churches, synagogues and mosques where we might find refuge are shuttered and shifted online.

Going out to get groceries or medical care can feel like a life or death decision.

The gyms where we’d sweat it out, the bars where we’d talk it out and the sporting events that would distract us are all gone, too.

But there is great kindness as we dream up new ways to comfort each other, to build community that can hold without touching. Teachers are doing this en masse. Regular people and business owners are giving without thinking — from the last carton of eggs to a truckload of food.

We are isolated in our homes but together in this pandemic like nothing else in history.