Sally Ann Shurmur: Four Years Later, Shock Of Early Pandemic Still Vivid

Columnist Sally Ann Shurmur writes, "For me, [the reaction to COVID is] a cautionary tale of what happens when sensible people don’t have the courage to lead - to step up and say, this is not New York or LA and we are not doing it that way here."

Sally Ann Shurmur

March 14, 20244 min read

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We were in Havasu. We had eaten at our two favorite spots, Owen played golf, I lounged by the pool and read.

It was March 2020.

It was already a different trip, weird in some ways, because it was the first time I hadn’t stayed at Mom’s house. There was no TV hooked up there, so we opted for a hotel.

Because we are creatures of habit, Fox News was on 24/7. We saw reports of store shelves bare back east and thought, “what in the world?”

The uneasiness built and we decided to leave early. Surely things wouldn’t be that messed up in good ol’ Wyoming, where those making decisions have common sense and usually aren’t like lost sheep following the wrong-way guy in front.

Oh Shirley, you have no idea.

Police barred parents from entering the state basketball tournament at both the Casper Events Center and Casper College.

Games were stopped mid-game, never to resume.

Later, Wyoming High School Activities Association director Ron Laird admitted they probably could have played the tournament. You think?

On the way home, we listened to the venerable Tim Brando practically in tears from his court side seat at Madison Square Garden during what should have been the Big East Tournament.

He just couldn’t believe that the opportunity was taken away from those schools, which don’t play football and where basketball is king. God bless Tim Brando, who also loves coming to Laramie by the way.

By now, you may have a clue how this musing is going. Much of this I have never been allowed to write in public before.

If you don’t agree, awesome.

This is what I think.

We got home and stopped at a Casper grocery to buy corned beef and cabbage. The shelves resembled something in a war-torn country, an ominous predictor of what lay ahead.

Saturday night, I went to Mass and learned that it was the last Mass there would be until…who knew?

Even though it was Lent, even though we now needed the church more than ever, nope.

No Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter. Nope.

By Sunday, school had been officially placed on virtual, the bus drivers were out of work, and I had an email telling me not to come to the office.

So of course to the office I went on Monday morning. Just Seth Klamann and I on the news side, that day and every day after.

I never missed a day at the office, because that’s what I thought you did when you have a job. You show up.

Turns out, a whole generation missed that gene. If you can make it with checks from the government, I suppose they think, why would you work?

Meanwhile, back home in Glenrock, our social lives continued, unabated.

One weekend that May, we had a graduation party, a 50th anniversary party and a baby shower within 24 hours.

I could hardly wait to tell people in Casper,  many of whom hadn’t left their backyards in months.

As soon as we could, we patronized every bar, every restaurant in Glenrock, ordering takeout before they were open and doing everything we could to help them stay in business.

Summer brought word of no football or an abbreviated schedule with few fans in the stands.

I called it a tragedy on Facebook and was absolutely blasted. Again, my opinion.

So here we are, four years later.

For many, all of that is a murky memory. For me, it’s a cautionary tale of what happens when sensible people don’t have the courage to lead - to step up and say, this is not New York or LA and we are not doing it that way here.

Is it really a free country? Do we have a right anymore to make decisions?

In my view, it wasn’t then or now about who is or isn’t in the White House.

Yes, the pandemic killed people. But in the rush to save us from ourselves, folks in nursing homes were denied visitors and died of broken hearts.

Multi-generation holiday gatherings were “prohibited.”

Elderly folks living alone went without human contact for days on end.

Rites of passage like prom and graduation and weddings were halted.

The big question is, did we learn anything or would those who lead us make the same ridiculous decisions again?

Sally Ann Shurmur can be reached at:

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Sally Ann Shurmur