What a Difference A Year Makes

A year ago today, we were eager to greet a new decade.

We could celebrate any way we wanted.

We could hop a train to New York, join hundreds of thousands of strangers in Times Square, watch a ball drop down the side of a building, and head back home.

We could enjoy a great meal at a restaurant, surrounded by other diners. We could eat, chat and linger, then head to another spot for a nightcap.

And the next day, if we wanted, we could go to an open house with friends and relatives. We could invite neighbors over, for a spontaneous drink. We could skate at Longshore, watch a movie in a theater, or head back to New York for a game at the Garden.

Of course, we might not have been in Westport at all. Perhaps we were skiing in Vermont, out West or Europe. Maybe we were in Florida visiting parents or grandparents. We might have been in the Caribbean, soaking up sun before everyone had to be back in the office or at school.

New Year’s Day 2019 drew hordes of humans and dogs to Compo Beach (Photo/Tom Cook)

On December 31, 2019 we had never heard of Dr. Anthony Fauci. Or Wuhan, China.

We knew the words “lockdown” and “quarantine,” but they meant nothing to us.

If we ran out of toilet paper, we bought it without thinking. Nor did we think about (or look at) the clerk at CVS or Walgreens who rang it up.

We did not think about a lot of other things, either. For instance, everything schools do, besides education. Or the importance of daily routines, like working out at the gym, chatting with other parents at our kids’ bus stop, or getting coffee wherever.

We certainly did not think of doing certain things, a year ago. A walk or bike ride with the entire family? A night of board games? Running errands for neighbors? Pfffttt — who had time for such things?

Sherwood Farms Lane celebrated July 4th with a bike parade. (Photo/Mark Rubino)

What a difference a year makes.

The past year — which seems like 50 centuries — has been brutal. And I’m not even talking about other names we hadn’t heard of a year ago, like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. Or about an election season that brought us to the brink of the end of democracy.

We’re still teetering there.

We made it — well, all of us except the 25 Westporters killed by the disease we had not heard of a year ago. And our 330,000-plus fellow Americans. And George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.

And our belief in our nation as a special place, one with all the right values, where people take care of each other and look out for the rest of the world.

But as bad as this year has been, we’ve seen Westport at its best. Nearly every day, “06880” has included a story about individuals of all ages rising to meet difficult challenges, neighbors helping neighbors (and strangers), institutions pivoting to new ways to serve residents. Remarkable things happened — and I’m not just talking about a (very remarkable) drive-in theater.

The Remarkable Theater was also the scene of great concerts, produced by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce. (Drone photo/John Videler for Videler Photography)

We lost proms and Homecomings, Memorial Day and the 4th of July, the Levitt and too many restaurants. We lost 9 months (and counting) of our lives, and we’ll never get those back.

But we gained some things too. We gained insights into ourselves. We gained a sense of community. We even gained a few restaurants. If that does not provide hope for the future, nothing will.

None of us would wish this past year on anyone. All of us look forward to 2021. Tomorrow, hindsight truly will be 2020.

When we gather a year from now, in this virtual space — looking forward to 2022 — let’s make sure we have learned the lessons of 2020.

They’re not all clear yet. Still, if we’ve learned nothing else from this past year, it’s this: The future is unknown. We may face challenges unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

Yet together — as a community — we can overcome them. In the end, each of us is all we’ve got.


36 responses to “What a Difference A Year Makes

  1. Thank you for this Dan, all very well articulated as always! Thanks also for all of your informative and interesting coverage and pieces throughout this unique and very challenging year. We’re all very fortunate to have you and 06880 to rely on day in and day out to stay informed. Here’s to a happier, healthier, and safer 2021 and beyond! Happy new year!!

  2. Nice, Dan.

  3. Beautiful essay Dan. You said it all. This is a keeper!
    Sue Kane

  4. Perfect intro to the new year. Thank you, Dan, for always getting it right. Happy 2021.

  5. Patricia McMahon

    Beautifully expressed Dan.
    The comeback is always STRONGER than the set back .
    Best wishes to all going forward into 2021

  6. Ian O’Malley

    This was an absolute spot on and tremendous piece of writing. Heartfelt, and totally nailed it with what we’ve gone through as a community. It is exactly what I needed to read first thing on this last day of what was such a difficult and completely surreal year.
    When the sun shines and smoke clears from from this period of time and storm we’ve all gone through, one can only hope collectively we can take all the lessons learned with us to 2021 and beyond.
    Let’s make it the best ever.
    I for one plan to make up for lost time. Especially socially and mixing with the citizens that makes Westport one of the best places to live in America.
    It will be a rough coming few months, but if we are all diligent about behaviors and safety, the party will start.
    Please consider this an open invite to all at mine.
    Happy New Year!
    Lord knows we deserve it.

    • Thanks Dan. Your post is the first thing I read in the morning and it’s been invaluable every year but especially this one! Thanks for doing what you do for the Town of Westport!

  7. Dan, that is an absolutely brilliant piece of writing. You’ve outdone yourself. It’s one more reason I’m thankful every day that you spend so much of your time producing very important information and give us so much for all of us to think about. You have been one of the very best parts of 2020 and I sincerely thank you.

    • Thanks, CarolAnne — and all others for your kind comments. I am honored to be able to do what I love — and to do it in a community like this. I feel very fortunate indeed!

  8. Michael Calise

    All very true Dan,
    And in the end how we give of ourselves, act within our community and benefit and support our family and fellow citizen’s is all that counts.

  9. Robert Mitchell

    Nice job, Dan

  10. Roseann Spengler

    Beautifully written and spot on. Thank you, Dan, for your continued dedication to Westport. 06880 was the tonic I needed to get me through the last 10 months. I am forever grateful.

  11. Thank you Dan for all you do to bring this community together and help us to look beyond the Westport borders. You express so well what many of us cannot put into words. I know people in our community are looking at things a little differently after this year, and I pray that many more will slow down a little and be aware of those around them. We are stronger standing together than alone. And all of us need a little help sometimes.

  12. Catherine Onyemelukwe

    Great comments, Dan.

  13. Well said. Thank you for being you!

  14. Judith Marks-White

    Bravo to you, Dan, for an essay that warms our hearts, gives us hope and is a perfect aperitif to the New Year.

  15. Thank you Dan – you touched my heart with your expression of humanity & insight into the human condition. My sincere wishes for a Happy New Year.

  16. Wendy Crowther

    Your are such a treasure to me and to this community. You have so brilliantly summarized what this year has been about in this essay. You’ve also done it daily, and for years. You are the bright light at the start of our days. You’ve been the informer, the consoler, the spirit-lifter, the educator, the heart and soul of Westport. Thank you for your dedication to all of us and for the incredible work you do to remind us of who we are, what we’ve been, and who we can be. You are the best. Happy New Year, Dan.

  17. What a beautifully and thoughtfully written column. Thank you so much, Dan, for writing it. And, thank you for 06880, the glue that holds us together.

  18. Melissa Diamond

    A wonderful column, Dan!
    Thank you for all and Happy New Year!

  19. I think the quality of the writing in today’s column illustrates why the rest of us in the class of ‘71 had no chance of winning the Harvard Book Award (a top English prize at Staples). You did win that award (or some other top writing award, right)?

  20. patricia driscoll

    Beautifully said, Dan. You are such a Westport treasure. I no longer live in Westport but I am so impressed with your 24/7 devotion to this town. I think it’s time, if it hasn’t already happened, that you are nominated for a civic award.

  21. This was beautifully written, thank you Dan. Here’s to a precedented 2021!

  22. Vanessa Bradford

    As always Dan, you rock!!!!! Cheers to a better and better 2021

  23. What a beautiful way to kiss 2020 goodbye. A lot was lost this year, but perhaps some perspective gained. Thank you for all you do for our town and the ability to view it in different ways! Wishing you a 2021 filled with love, health, happiness, peace and a vaccine!!

  24. Amen, my Dear. Happy New Year. xoxoxo

  25. A REAL history lesson for the future generations that may doubt the reality of 2020! Beautifully written by a pro!
    Thanks Dan.

  26. Audrey Hertzel

    So beautifully written, as always, Dan.

  27. How beautifully put… Let’s work hard to remember this year, with its losses, disappointments and inconveniences as a way to keep in touch with what is really important – our family and friends, and most of all, our community and spiritual values. And hope – always hope.

  28. Barbara McGrath

    Thank you, Dan-

    All the preceding comments express my thoughts and appreciation, too.

    Barbara McGrath

  29. Beautiful, Dan. Thank you.

  30. Priscilla Hawk

    Dear Dan, We are so lucky to have you. You do more than giving invaluable updates – you give us the strength to go on and the joys of life in your world, which is our world, too. Priscilla Hawk

  31. Cynthia Melchiorri

    Thanks Dan –

    You stated our shared thoughts beautifully, sensitively, practically and with Hope for the New Year! Happy New Year to All!

  32. Isabelle Breen

    “Tomorrow, hindsight truly will be 2020.”
    I see what you did there…lol.
    Amen to that!
    Nice piece Dan.

  33. Beautiful, Dan. Moving and profound. A perfect beginning to the New Year. Thank you for all that you do and all that you mean to our community.