Empty cityscapes are rarities through history. Cities are strange without the inhabitants who bustle through their streets, exhaling life and vibrancy. Now that countries around the world are reopening businesses and lifting restrictions, it is interesting to reflect upon our time for the past few months. How will this pandemic end?
Here, we have assembled a collection of footage showing three cities in the U.S during quarantine. Returning to normalcy is a challenging and extensive process, but once we do, our cities are waiting for us.
Long Beach, California
Video produced by Victoria Benefield
As a Californian, I’m used to complaining about crowds, from tourists standing in squealing packs as the Pacific washes over their feet to lines of honking Toyota Priuses stretching ad infinitum down I-710. But on April 19 and 20, when I shot this video, the freeways were nearly empty, and the beach was desolate. A child took one step over the concrete barrier and planted a single foot in the sand. Immediately, a voice rang out from a nearby loudspeaker, a lifeguard informing him in no uncertain terms that “NO ONE IS ALLOWED ON THE BEACH.” A few masked faces turned in his direction as the child’s mother scooped him up, adjusted his mask and sent him charging across the deserted parking lot. In the park overlooking the sand, there were still people playing soccer or having picnics, but each group kept to itself – the customary nods and smiles were absent. As I walked down a nearly empty street to my car, I longed for hot, sticky summer days and crowded sidewalks, when my biggest concern was the long line for ice cream. Back then, I dreamed of quiet streets – now, they’re just a reminder of how much life has changed in the span of a few months.
Video produced by Olivia Yarvis
Known for being the Live Music Capital of the World, overpriced tacos, an ever-widening stock of condos and for “keeping it weird,” Austin, Texas is the epitome of an energetic social scene. But when I shot this video on April 21, the party atmosphere that I’ve come to associate with Austin felt nonexistent. The Drag, a street usually covered by University of Texas students and swarms of Bird scooters, was a ghost town. The UT clock tower’s iconic chimes crashed like thunder against the countless boarded-up bars and restaurants. The usually painstaking drives in and out of the city on I-35 or MoPac became solo joyrides. The Austin I captured in this video is not the same city I’ve come to know and love. Yet the radical political graffiti strewn across a defunct liquor store, the messages of solidarity found in the immaculate street art and the Willie Nelson quote dazzling on the Paramount Theatre’s marquee provide beacons of hope for a healthier future and a reminder that there is still life behind closed doors. But without the Austinites, the city doesn’t have its usual vibrancy and warmth.
Video produced by Allison Arguezo
Geneva Commons, a shopping district in Geneva, Ill. is nearly empty due to state's stay-at-home orders. Geneva Commons is home to over 50 retail stores, such as DICK’S Sporting Goods, H&M and Forever 21. Before the outbreak, Geneva Commons, or “The Commons” used to be filled with visitors, especially on the weekends. Only a few stores remain open now and the lots are barren. Many other popular shopping districts in the town, like Third Street, have suffered the same fate as The Commons. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the state has over 114,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5,000 deaths, making it currently the 3rd highest state with the number of confirmed cases.
Thumbnail image licensed with permission from Wikimedia Commons. [[File:Bluff park long beach.JPG|thumb|Bluff park long beach]].