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British Columbians reflect on the exact moment the pandemic sunk in (VIDEO)

The year 2020 was filled with uncertainty and challenges for people everywhere across the world and it all started with panic at grocery stores. 

“When I got to Superstore, there was a huge lineup. Everyone was just waiting their turn,” recalls Marie-Josée Le Jour. “I felt like it was a scene out of a communist movie.”

Le Jour, a North Vancouver resident, says she quickly got sick of eating pickles every day and knew she had to do a grocery run.

“When I got in, there were empty shelves all over the place... Once I got in there, that is when it hit me that this was something we’ve never experienced before,” she tells Glacier Media. “It was eerie.” 

Today (March 11, 2021) marks one year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic and lockdowns started. For some, it feels like yesterday. For others, a lifetime ago. But everyone has their own story about the moment the pandemic really hit home.  

Lana Brandt lives in Gibsons and is a new mom to twins. She says the big moment for her was also going to the grocery store.

“Feeling panicked, feeling nervous about, is this safe to be here? And everyone in masks,” says Brandt. “There was empty produce aisles, no pasta on the shelf, no TP, no cleaning supplies. Everyone kind of went crazy in the beginning.”

Her green thumb allowed her to provide for her family by planting seeds and growing vegetables.

Gwen Carpenter remembers unloading groceries in her North Vancouver home when the severity of the pandemic sunk in.

“I realized I was alone in my kitchen having put all the groceries away and I still had my mask on,” says Carpenter. “It was like it became a part of who I was. It was very strange.”

For one Grand Forks resident, the moment the pandemic became real was when his son got hurt. Brendan Wheaton’s son burned himself “really bad” with tea on March 21, 2020. The family drove to Kelowna and then flew to BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. 

“We were there for 10 days. Every single day there was an additional COVID measure that was added or altered,” says Wheaton. “By the end, we had to have bracelets on and they were keeping everyone out except a select few that absolutely needed to be there. The hospital was a ghost town.” 

Across the province, long-term care homes were a significant cause for concern of spreading the virus to at-risk individuals. 

Erin Beaudoin, an employee at a care home in Nanaimo, says a new family came to move their mother in on March 17, 2020 and were not aware they couldn’t come inside with her.
   
“I had to tell them at the door they had to leave her in her wheelchair and all her bags at our front door,” she says. “She had advanced dementia. They didn’t know their caregivers. They were very angry.”  

Meanwhile, a substitute teacher in North Vancouver tells Glacier Media the pandemic forced her into retirement out of concern for her safety.   

“I’m 80, so in thinking that I am in that vulnerable age group, I didn’t want to put myself in that situation. I didn’t feel comfortable as a teacher on-call going,” says Louise Manelia.
   
More than 22,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Canada. Many people could not say goodbye to loved ones or hold funerals due to provincial rules around gatherings. Among them is Daun Frederickson.

She brought a fridge over to her parents' home in Ladner so she could deliver food and necessities safely as her mother was battling lung cancer.  

“I went every day and put something in their fridge because my mom just needed to see me,” she says, adding a note was also placed on the door. It read: "We love you all. We can talk, text or visit through the window or door. This is for everyone's health and well-being." 

"Every time we took groceries, I'd sit outside and watch my mom." 

Sadly, her mother died last May at the age of 76.

“That was real.... those moments were so real being through the glass, having my mom’s hand through the glass was very scary,” says Frederickson.