I never imagined the emptiness. It left me with a sinking feeling, a sense of aloneness that I had not experienced before as I stood on Long Island Rail Road train trestles during the middle of what should have been rush hour.
The coronavirus crisis has truly altered our human landscape.
On a sunny May 21, I drove from station to station along the Babylon Branch of the LIRR, stopping in Seaford, Bellmore, Freeport, Rockville Centre, Lynbrook and Valley Stream, to document the emptiness — and the small number of people who are riding the rails these days.
Then I headed down the Far Rockaway Branch to the Lawrence station, and over to the Long Beach branch to the Long Beach terminal.
Where only two and a half months ago tens of thousands of commuters crowded onto cement platforms early in the morning, awaiting stainless-steel trains to carry them to New York City or points east, now there are but a handful of people — the essential workers who cannot telecommute, but are thankful to still have their jobs. Often, a platform was devoid of people, as if it were part of a ghost town. I had no trouble finding parking.
It requires a certain fortitude, I thought, to ride the rails amid the coronavirus pandemic, knowing the virus is out there, still lurking, unseen.
People truly are resilient. Today's LIRR riders are, in a sense, pioneers, showing the rest of us how we will overcome when, eventually, Governor Cuomo gives the OK allowing everyone to return to work and life as normal.