This is the first of a series of posts as we have experienced the COVID 19 pandemic in the winter, spring and early summer months of 2020. Much written in the posts takes place on a tiny island on the coast of North Carolina as I am home-bound hiding from COVID 19—in an East Coast resort area of the Outer Banks – barrier islands known to beach lovers by the acronym OBX.
Isolated by geography, this place – sandy barrier islands with minimal vegetation was home for a short period to the first English settlers to the Americas in 1587, a colony of 150 men, women and children. We can assume they were a plucky adventuresome bunch or perhaps merely desperate to escape poverty, starvation and class driven England. Dreary English weather alone would have driven them to Virginia as it was then named—Virginia, uncharted territory and named for their virgin queen. Hot and humid weather, a scorching sun, thick overgrown swamps and marshlands and all the dangerous inhabitants, a wild treacherous coastline and indigenous folk unknown to these pale, untested and untried city and country folk of 1500 England. Life beyond their imagination was ahead when they stepped aboard a tiny ship in Plymouth, England to begin their voyage to the ‘new world’.
Eventually the English settlement now known in history books as The Lost Colony retreated, swallowed up by the place. But neither sunburn, mosquitoes, snakes nor pending starvation finished them off, I would argue. Rather isolation – shut off from the old world they had known– isolation drove them to despair, to abandon their dream of success in the ‘new world’ as it was known in Elizabethan times. Isolation and despair, as those plucky starving Englishmen must have felt in late 1500, shrouds us today in a world of virus, sickness and deaths. Isolation and despair.
An outdoor drama, The Lost Colony produced for eighty summers almost without interruption is the story of this English attempt to colonize the Americas–an economic venture. The theater on Roanoke Island darkened during World War II when the threat of German submarines prowling the East coast of U.S. was real, spreading isolation and fear among those who populated the barrier island fishing villages. Today, in the summer of 2020 the stage will again be dark. COVID 19 has shuttered the historic dramatic telling of Elizabeth’s colonizing for economic gain. Again, the locals feel fear and at risk – at risk, this time to the silent, unrecognizable, and often untreatable virus creeping among us. But by mid-spring fearful and aggravated, locals feel the economic pain as experienced by the world outside.
Investors, across the bridges connecting the tiny islands to the mainland, discovered taxable opportunities, creating an economic bubble and a boon to the meager wages of barrier villagers. I grew up in a ninth-generation family on Roanoke Island – a family with those meager wages, with sand and silence, broken only by the wind and crashing ocean waves.
The National Park Service, protecting our lands purchased 10,000 acres in 1937 hence saving some segments along the wild North Carolina coastline from over development. Today, a drive along 114 ocean front miles makes evident over development of Duck, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head. Even the tiny island of Ocracoke, the most southern barrier is risking too much of a good thing.
The spring of 2020 brought economic instability in the OBX—divisions, anger and polarization between locals or investors surfaced. COVID 19 strikes stealthily at the immune system; economic loss strikes openly at the heart of food on the table to the area grown accustomed to the influx of tourist to the OBX. From January through April, county officials locked out all but locals and the spread of COVID 19 was slowed to a fraction among the isolated native population. But ‘go home’ signs popped up on yards, arguments among neighbors and legal disputes ensued. Polarizing Problems
The next post looks at ‘Technology, the good news’ and the questions it leaves behind.’