Last spring, in the early days of the pandemic, the bestselling authors Cheryl Strayed and George Saunders had a podcast conversation about the importance of documenting this moment in time.
“The world needs our eyes and ears and minds,” Saunders told her. “We are the generation that is going to have to make sense of this and recover afterwards. Fifty years from now, people won’t believe this ever happened, and what will convince that future kid is what you are able to write about this.”
Here at The San Francisco Examiner, we’re in the business of capturing our history. And June 15, 2021 was a historic day.
The City reopened and all the rules changed. Masks gingerly came off. Crowds tentatively convened. Patrons caught movies and grabbed happy hour drinks. Shoppers bought groceries at full-capacity venues. If we’d been tiptoeing towards normalcy since the vaccine rollout began, yesterday we strapped on our running shoes and took off into a full sprint.
But it’s not so simple. Thousands of people across the Bay Area have lost their lives to an illness that is still ravaging many other parts of the world. Businesses have shuttered. Habits have fundamentally changed. Our very definition of normalcy may never be the same.
This juxtaposition—the relief of a new beginning, the aftermath of a collective trauma—will unfold with intricacy and complexity in the coming months. Anxieties are more acute, but a sense of joie de vivre has emerged. It’s a multifaceted story. And it’s a story that needs to be told as we, in the words of Saunders, make sense of this and recover.
Yesterday the entire Examiner staff deployed to different corners of The City to write down what filled their eyes and ears and minds. They perused the Ferry Building Marketplace, visited neighborhood haunts in the Excelsior, ate lunch in Union Square, and wandered along Valencia Street. They checked out the tourist traps at Fisherman’s Wharf and drove down to the Peninsula. They stopped by the Academy of Sciences, went to a Giants game, and ate katsu curry in Japantown.
Our reporting captured the ambivalence. At some places, revelers expressed glee and optimism about a fresh start. But other experiences revealed that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Several stores and eateries we visited still require masks. Many people we talked to were hesitant to embrace the relaxed rules. Indeed, things often did feel more like a tiptoe and less like a sprint.
The pages of this special edition are filled with the stories of what happened when The City woke up from a 15-month hibernation—tentatively or otherwise. May our readers make sense of it for generations to come.
— Carly Schwartz, Examiner editor in chief