In A Kansas City Deserted By Coronavirus, People Express Solidarity With Signs
With gathering places shut down, signs once used to attract customers and audiences are being re-purposed to break through isolation.
On March 24, 2020, Kansas City's emergency stay-at-home orders went into effect. To help stop the spread of the coronavirus, people were to stay home except to handle essential business: trips to the grocery store, urgent medical visits.
It's been almost a month since then, and many of us now live in a virtual city accessed through computer screens, operating through connections with people, not places.
Meanwhile, what used to be the busiest parts of town are now abandoned, or close to it, and the casual interactions that brought life to bars, restaurants, music venues, art galleries, churches and schools have disappeared.
But if you do go out for curbside hand sanitizer, or make a socially distanced grocery store run, or even just take a car ride to break up the monotony of your surroundings, you might notice that the signs around town have changed. People have started using these messaging platforms to send out smoke signals of love and hope.
The signs ask nothing of their readers, because for now, there is nothing to sell or promote.
They've become simple reminders of community, humanity and love at a time of isolation, hardship and fear.
Some businesses without signage have written notes on the windows, in an attempt to say just one more thing to their customers before temporarily shutting down brick-and-mortar operations.
These messages are like fond farewells trapped in glass.
In Lawrence, the quiet on the streets feels even weirder because of the youthfulness of the college town, where Jayhawks' sports, indie rock, craft beer and block parties have always drawn out boisterous crowds.
Without the signs, you could imagine that you'd dreamed up the crowds you remember from before. The signs provide comforting acknowledgment that what's happening now is not normal, and that you're not alone in feeling unsettled by it.
And even the signs meant for particular audiences, like school children, take on universal meaning.
You are missed. You are loved.