What ‘Being Essential’ Really Means

Since its first diagnosis in Wuhan, China, in December of 2019, COVID-19 has spread across the globe. Many states in the U.S. are now taking steps to slow the spread of the virus. One such step has been closing any non-essential businesses. Maine Governor Janet Mills issued one such executive order on March 25, 2020, saying that non-essential businesses must close for a minimum of 14 days.

But what does that mean for the essential businesses? Mark Draper, executive director of Aroostook Waste Solutions, runs one such business. “Without the landfills open, public waste would have nowhere to go,” Draper said. He runs both the Tri-Community Landfill in Fort Fairfield and the Presque Isle Landfill. The next closest landfill is in Houlton, an hour south.

One of Draper’s worries is what would happen if his employees get sick. “We have 10 employees total between Presque Isle and Fort Fairfield. If we even lose two, we would have a hard time staying open,” Draper said. Draper went on to explain that before there were any state-required precautions, he had already implemented some changes to protect his staff. “The public remains in their cars when interacting with staff, and no one goes into our offices or scale houses,” Draper said. “We are also only allowing those with pre-paid permits to use the facilities. No new permits means no contact with money.”

The other problem Draper has had to face was determining the appropriate response if one of his employees did get the virus. “If one employee calls in sick with COVID-19 symptoms, does that mean the person he worked with the day before needs to go home? I don’t know,” Draper said. He explained that while most of his employees are healthy, there are a few in the ‘at-risk’ age bracket. “I just hope nothing happens. But then again, hope is not a strategy.”

Another essential business is A.R. Gould Memorial Hospital. Within the past several weeks, numerous changes have been made to departments across the facility. All non-emergent appointments have been canceled or rescheduled. Some departments have closed altogether. Visitation has been limited to only one pre-determined visitor per patient.

The Main Entrance of Northern Light A.R. Gould Memorial Hospital, one of only two entrances open to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Sherry Beaulieu is the manager of many different departments and services. One of them is the Spiritual Care Department. “Our chaplains used to do daily rounds with the patients and had meetings with family members. Now, they stay home and are on call for emergent needs,” Beaulieu said. “They call in daily to see if there are any special requests from patients or even the staff. We sometimes have more requests from staff members than patients. But now, we can’t provide the same level of comfort.”

Beaulieu explained that there are ideas she and her supervisors are working on to see if they can provide some type of support. “We are considering getting a computer and speaker system set up so that patients can have Zoom meetings with the chaplains. We are also planning on doing daily phone calls to the patient rooms if we can’t get that to work,” Beaulieu said. “As for the staff, the house chapel is large enough to have one-on-one appointments and still maintain appropriate distancing. That’s something we’re looking into, too,” Beaulieu said.

One thing that both Draper and Beaulieu expressed was the uncertainty of how long they are going to have to work like this. “The hospital are making changes that go to the end of May. But who knows if they’ll have to extend into June?” Beaulieu said. As for Draper, he said that he’ll find ways to stay open. “If too many employees need to stay home for quarantine, we’re prepared to close one of the landfills and have all waste brought to the other. We’ll figure it out.”

The New Normal for Students Like Me

As a senior in college, I had a lot of plans and expectations for this spring semester. Plans for movie dates and bowling nights with friends. Going dress shopping for our senior formal. Leaving the dining hall to go pick up our caps and gowns for graduation from the campus store. Unfortunately, those plans changed due to the global pandemic brought on by the COVID-19 virus.

Those plans have now become dreams. The reality we are all living in consists of stay-at-home orders, staying six feet apart if you do go outside or going to work if you are considered essential. Schools and businesses are closed and the streets are often quite empty compared to a month and a half ago.

When I watch the news or articles online, the headlines are almost always related to COVID-19 or the many executive orders being signed across the country. Social media platforms are filled with celebrities trying to entertain fans or people posting what their new normal is. For someone who has anxiety or is a hypochondriac, the continual waves of fear and uncertainty are a lot to handle.

I am one such person. In the fall of 2019, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Barely five months later, a global pandemic starts and turns my life upside down. My friends left in a rush, with only a few days’ notice of the school shutting down. When your friends are your lifeline and spending time with them helps reduce your anxiety, this type of situation is anything but easy.

I work at a hospital, meaning I am an essential worker. While it’s nice to be able to leave my house and see other people, I am risking my health every day just by going to work. My job is to screen people as they enter the hospital. While we do our best to stay six feet apart, I am still exposed to a number of illnesses beyond COVID-19. As I am writing this, I begin a streak of working five days in a row.

Since I work at a hospital during a pandemic and don’t have friends nearby to ease my worry, my mental health has suffered greatly. Almost every day I get a headache that lasts for hours and trying to do homework on a computer does not help at all. Often, the best relief is to sleep it off, but then that affects my sleep schedule. I then find myself wide awake at 1 a.m. and sleeping in until 9 or 10 a.m. Having poor sleep results in more headaches and the cycle restarts.

Due to all of the worries and struggles with coping students like me are facing, some of our professors are taking extra steps to help us however they can. They change the assignments that are due, or cancel assignments altogether. They change their grading rubrics, making it easier for students to still succeed. Some have said there will be no final at all for their classes.

In the end, all people everywhere are having some of the hardest times of their lives. With applications such as Zoom, some are able to find comfort in seeing their loved ones, even if it is through a screen. For those of us whose comfort lies in personal connections and contact, there is no real comfort to be found. I crave a hug from my mom or my best friend. I crave sitting in uncomfortable chairs while at the movies and throwing popcorn at my friends during it.

In the words of Ellen DeGeneres, “Be kind to one another” and make sure to check in with your loved ones as often as you can. Whether that be through Zoom or Skype or pulling into their driveways to share a lunch from six feet away. Now, more than ever, you never know what someone is going through.

The Pen Is Mightier Than the Sword

Cast from All the President’s Men.

Americans are proud people. They want to support their country however they can. Some fly American flags off their porches. Some sing the National Anthem at sporting events. Others sign up to defend the country from enemies, foreign and domestic, by joining the military. More go into politics, hoping to make the country better for all who live in it.

The world of politics does not have the same dangers as the world of war. It isn’t an easy world to navigate either, however. That fact was never clearer than after the Washington Post published a story in 1972 about a cover-up that led all the way to the Oval Office.

What was first reported as a routine break-in at the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters in the Watergate Office Building soon became more. Two reporters for the Washington Post, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, thought there was more to that story. So, they began to dig deeper.

When some of the arrested burglars were found to be former CIA and FBI agents, Woodward went to his anonymous source, Deep Throat, for help. Deep Throat helped piece together what the reporters were missing by insisting they “follow the money.”

By following Deep Throat’s advice, Woodward and Bernstein discovered that the burglars were connected to President Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign committee. Woodward and Bernstein began talking to as many people as they could to find the truth. That did not make many people happy. Soon, Woodward and Bernstein were being warned to stop investigating or risk their lives.

Woodward and Bernstein did not stop and they were finally able to put together who knew what. One of those people was President Nixon. After publicly denying that he knew anything, President Nixon was soon unable to hide his knowledge any longer. The Supreme Court ordered Nixon to turn over tapes of secretly recorded conversations. Some of those conversations held undeniable evidence. President Nixon resigned from office in August 1974 rather than face impeachment.

The movie “All the President’s Men” covers Woodward and Bernstein’s actions leading to this monumental discovery. Along with Woodward and Bernstein, the movie follows Ben Bradlee, the executive editor of the Washington Post. When talking to Woodward and Bernstein about the implications the story could have, Bradlee demanded they get it right. “Not that there’s a lot riding on this. Only the First Amendment and Freedom of the Press and maybe the future of our democracy,” Bradlee said.

Woodward, Bernstein and the Washington Post were the only ones reporting on this story. Every other paper thought the burglary of the DNC’s headquarters was just that–a burglary. If it weren’t for these brave reporters or their trustful editor, Nixon’s crimes may have never been discovered. No one would know the truth, and Nixon could have gotten away with the burglary, the secret recordings, bribes and much more. Nixon was 20 months into his second term in office. He would have had two more years to manipulate the U.S. government for his benefit. Thankfully, that was not the case. And it’s due in part to two reporters from the Washington Post.

Shining A Spotlight

Much like the movie “All the President’s Men,” which highlighted investigative journalism, “Spotlight” follows reporters from the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team as they begin to uncover a molestation cover-up in the Catholic Church. The film showcases all of the external and internal struggles these reporters faced while investigating such a sensitive story. Many of the reporters had Catholic backgrounds, and some of them knew a few of the priests who were identified as pedophiles. “It could have been you, it could have been me, it could have been any of us!” reporter Mike Rezendes said during the investigation.

A scene from Spotlight.

These Spotlight reporters were some of the best investigative reporters in the business. That didn’t mean they were immune from feeling the pain when learning the truth about such a horrible topic. In a very tense scene, Rezendes argues with editor Robby Robinson about when they should publish the story. When Robinson is wary about publishing the story too early, Rezendes gets upset. “It’s time, Robby! It’s time! They knew and they let it happen! To KIDS!” Rezendes said. “We gotta show people that nobody can get away with this. Not a priest, or a cardinal or a freaking pope!”

Rezendes’ outburst showed just how disturbed the team members were getting as they learned more about what was going on. The team members were shocked when the number of priests who had molested young boys reached 13, but were disgusted when the number reached nearly 90. Ben Bradlee Jr., who the Spotlight team reports to, was one such person. “90 fucking priests. In Boston!” Bradlee Jr. said.

While the Spotlight team shed light on what was really going on in the Catholic Church, the movie itself shed light on how hard reporters work to get the story. From July of 2001 until they published the story January 6, 2002, the Spotlight reporters had to live in the world of priests who were pedophiles and molesters.

One reporter, Matt Carroll, had to live knowing that there was a priest “treatment” center, that housed priests who had committed pedophilia, down the street from him and his children. Carroll made a note on his fridge telling his children to stay away from that particular house. Later, Carroll wants to tell the families in his neighborhood about it, but Robinson said no. “We’ll tell them soon,” Robinson said, meaning when the story is published.

In the end, after months of digging and discoveries, the Boston Globe reported that 87 priests in Boston’s Catholic Churches were pedophiles. The final scene in the movie is the inside of Spotlight’s office, where the phones are ringing off the hook. On the end of each phone was another victim or witness calling to share a story. In the following months, as many as 249 priests were identified.

In the ending credits, a list of over 200 cities from various countries are shown, each of which had reported cases of pedophilia and molestation in the Catholic Churches. Two hundred cities across the world with pedophilic priests. Without the work of the Spotlight reporters, these cases might never have been discovered. Some of the Boston cases had dated back to 1962.

The victims of these crimes had to live in silence out of fear. Fear that no one would believe them. Fear that the church would cover up their story as it had others. Fear that the people in their parish would turn their backs on them. But with the truth out publicly, they felt heard for the first time ever.

What Makes a Picture Worth 1,000 Words?

One picture can capture a moment worth far more than 1,000 words. Just ask these Pulitzer Prize winners. All of the following photojournalists and their pictures understand this concept. Whether they capture inspirational moments or devastating events, each picture is a brief moment in people’s lives. It is the journalist’s job to tell their story and, as John White said, “If the journalist doesn’t do it, who’s going to do it?” In the film, “A Glimpse of Life: The Pulitzer Photographs,” White and other Pulitzer winners describe what it takes to be a photojournalist, including the moving moments and the horrible sorrow.

The image of soldiers raising the American flag on Iwo Jima is very well known. It has become the symbol for national monuments and memorial pieces. Before the statues were built and art made, that image was of soldiers finishing their job. Four or five soldiers putting the American flag in the rubble of war shows the strength and resilience of soldiers across the globe. Taken by Joe Rosenthal in 1945, this image was a turning point for American forces in World War II. When speaking about the picture, photojournalist Eddie Adams said, “A still picture is in front of you all the time…. The most powerful weapon that we have in the world is a still photograph.”

War is time of incredible suffering, yet there are so many moments that are important to capture. The Vietnam War was one such war. With the massive amount of public attention, good and bad, it was up to the journalists and photojournalists to tell the story of the war. John White explained that photojournalism is “a front seat to history.” Two pictures, taken four years apart, show death and pain at the hands of Vietnamese and American troops. The first, taken by Eddie Adams in 1969, is of a prisoner of war and a Vietnamese general walking up to him in the road and executing him. The man pulling the trigger is calm, easily ending the man’s life.

As for the second picture, taken by Nick Ut in 1973, this was the aftermath of a napalm bombing on a small village. Families and young children are running away from the smoke and fire. Many are naked with their clothes having been burned off by the blaze. The picture clearly sees a young girl, naked and crying, while her home burns behind her. The general rule for news at that time had been no “titillating” nudity in the papers. Since there was nothing “titillating” about this image, they made an exception for this one because of the raw emotion shown.

Many images that come from war bring out emotions—whether anger and sadness or inspiration and respect. Natural disasters do the same thing, except the anger and sadness is directed at the earth. Carol Guzy and Michel duCille know firsthand what that is like. “You rage inside at the helplessness. To try to deal with it, you seek out elements of humanity and courage,” Guzy said, remembering what it was like in Colombia in 1986. A massive mudslide claimed the lives of more than 20,000 people. Guzy and duCille were there to capture the aftermath on film. They took a picture of a young girl, stuck in water, and rescue workers trying to save her. After 72 hours, she died from her injuries without being freed from the water.

Pulitzer Prize winning photos don’t need to be of death and suffering. Sometimes, it’s the pictures of freedom and success that make that picture Pulitzer worthy. In 1990, the Berlin Wall fell and signaled the end of the Cold War in Europe. David Turnley was there in 1990 as the destruction of the wall began. The image of a young man, with a hammer and chisel, breaking away piece by piece a wall that symbolized restriction and conformity changed the meaning of the wall. With its destruction, it became an image of freedom.

“There’s something about this business that can catapult you to the highest sense of being and purpose,” Don Bartletti said. That “sense of being and purpose” is what makes photojournalism more than a profession, but a calling. It requires courage, compassion, curiosity and empathy. Photojournalists witness the worst moments in history, but also the best. And all so that they can capture and share them for the rest of the world.

Photo by Stanley Forman.