To look at year-old photographs is to revisit a world divided. There were places where life had already been short-circuited by a raging plague — and others where it was just becoming apparent that the monster was in the house.
In Madrid, store shelves are empty as residents prepare for a lockdown. The gates are locked to the Forbidden City in Beijing, guarded by masked guards. A single Palestinian workman sprays disinfectant at the Al-omari mosque in Gaza City.
But in retrospect, a photo of a COVID-19 briefing by Dr. Anthony Fauci, Vice President Mike Pence and other health advisers on March 10 — a day before the World Health Organization declared a pandemic — is a study in obliviousness. Eight people crowd the podium. None wears a mask.
So many of the photographs feature unadorned faces, and to 2021 eyes it is jarring. Is it possible that three Gonzaga University basketball players, celebrating a victory over St. Mary’s in the NCAA tournament, could hug barefaced? That members of Congress could crowd into elevators? That Indian revelers could dance rapturously in the streets on Holi, the Hindu festival of colors?
Journalists jammed together to question lawyers for Harvey Weinstein after his sentencing for rape and sexual assault; demonstrators clashed with police in Caracas, Venezuela. But in that very moment, teams garbed in protective equipment, head to foot, set out to disinfect the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, ground zero for the coronavirus outbreak in that state.
The divide can be seen in Champions League games across Europe — some were played before fans, and some were not for fear of spreading the disease. A full stadium was on hand to watch Kieran Trippier’s acrobatic shot for Atletico Madrid in Liverpool, England; there were fireworks but no crowd at the match between Paris-Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund in Paris.
And in Linz, Austria, a lone, ghostlike fan wore a sheet and stood amid the empty seats.