NEW YORK — Brooklyn is dark except for the streetlamps when Carla Brown’s alarm goes off at 5:15 a.m. -- much too early for an average Monday. But with the coronavirus laying siege to New York, today looms as anything but ordinary.
Brown runs a meals-on-wheels program for elderly shut-ins and in her embattled city, that label suddenly fits nearly every senior citizen. For two weeks, she’s been working 12- to 14-hour days, taking over routes for sick or missing drivers. Today, she has to find room on the trucks for more than 100 new deliveries.
She pulls on jeans, grabs her mask and heads for the Grand Army Plaza subway station, wearing a sweatshirt with Muhammad Ali’s name printed across the front.
“He’s one of my idols,” Brown says. “And I just felt like I was ready for the fight today.”
What other choice is there?
Before the pandemic swept in, America’s biggest, loudest city often lived up to its own hype. Then the coronavirus all but shut it down, claiming lives from the Bronx to the Battery and beyond. Now the hush, whether at midnight or midday, is broken mostly by the wail of ambulances. Streets long ago rumored to be paved with gold are littered with disposable medical gloves.
Over 24 hours, a taxi driver will cruise those desolate streets, searching for the few workers who need to keep moving. A bodega owner will make a promise to a customer he hopes he’ll never have to keep. An emergency room doctor and a paramedic will labor to hold down a death toll that on this day threatens to surpass the number killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11.
For them and 8.5 million others, today will be nothing like just another Monday. Because long before the sun has risen, the clock has already begun counting down the latest, most punishing round in the fight for New York.