History is usually thought of as part of the past, but sometimes we get the sense that we are living through historic events. Perhaps this crossed the minds of the townsfolk from Port Coquitlam as they struggled through 1920 and ’21 when the fire and then the flood struck. Life altering disasters are often sudden, all-encompassing and newsworthy, but then there are the ones that steal in slowly and inevitably alter our lives in ever changing ways. So it was with the COVID-19 pandemic.
At first, news of an epidemic across the ocean seemed remote and possibly containable. Then more and more countries reported cases and locked down. News reports advised that the disease was coming closer to Canada and Port Coquitlam. Communication and transportation had changed since the pandemic of 1918. Now the updates were televised and the disease had a new mode of travel, the airplane. People prepared to hunker down in their own homes causing a run on flour, yeast and toilet paper. Empty grocery store shelves became common.
In BC, our Public Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, became the calm voice advising us about new protocols in our interactions with each other to help curb the spread of the pandemic. Social distancing became the norm, causing many to work from home and the closure of venues that encouraged public gatherings like museums, theatres and restaurants. In Port Coquitlam, city hall and other municipal buildings were closed to the public, including the Outlet building where our museum is housed.