In our latest issue, we asked a number of community leaders and voices to tell us what they have realized during this pandemic about the things they’ve taken for granted in our great city of Long Beach. Here's what they said!
Foreword Courtesy Of Our Mayor, Robert Garcia:
"The pandemic has been challenging on so many levels, but it has also given us a chance to appreciate what’s most important. Personally, I miss more than anything being able to see close friends and family, break bread together and hug one another without giving it a second thought.
I never imagined doing the right thing for the folks in my community would mean staying away from one another. I took for granted how human contact and connection—both of which are such an important part of everyday life—would always help us though difficult times.
Grieving my mother and step-father has been hard, and not being able to gather close together with loved ones made it even harder. Death is a powerful reminder of how much we depend on a supportive community to get through hard times.
As Mayor, and also just another resident of this diverse, sprawling city, what I love about Long Beach is the fabric of relationships—the smiling faces we see every day, the people we work with, our neighbors, and how we take care of one another.
I never imagined a virus could take away our ability to connect, to spend time together, to be with our friends or neighbors. I miss going out and sitting down indoors at my favorite restaurants, grabbing a quick drink with friends and all our really great special events we typically host throughout the year.
How often did we take time to appreciate the warmth of a kind handshake, those little kisses hello at a party or family gathering, a quick hug from someone you haven’t seen in a while?
That human connection that was always simply normal is suddenly gone and it’s a challenge for everyone.
But it’s also a chance to recognize how much we need one another. In these times, with so much division and uncertainty, that’s more important than ever."
Ike Mmeje, Chief Operating Officer; Long Beach Medical Center
Miller Children & Women’s Hospital Long Beach:
"I am newer to Long Beach, and the way Long Beachians have come together, and found this underlying strength and generosity, is awe-inspiring.
I see it in my job every day. Not only at the beginning of the pandemic, when we had cars lined up at the donation center outside our hospitals – donating masks, PPE and food for staff – but also today, as we still hear the supportive honks as people drive by our ‘healthcare heroes work here’ sign.
I also see it as a I stroll with my family in our own Bixby Knolls neighborhood, frequenting many of the same businesses who donated food to our staff when we needed it most – still giving back while having to pivot their own business model. As a board member of the Long Beach Rescue Mission, I’ve also seen volunteering, donating and support continue during this time, which again speaks to the pervasive generosity of our city.
As an avid basketball and Lakers fan, I would say Long Beach has certainly found its ‘Mamba Mentality’ during one of the largest health crises in a generation."
Robert G. Luna, Chief of Police; Long Beach Police Department:
"As your Chief of Police and a Long Beach resident, my utmost priority is to strengthen our partnerships and continue to build trust with the diverse community we serve. What I enjoy most in policing is the community engagement - the opportunity to interact with families and kids, to participate in local community events, and to meet with our neighborhood organizations. In 2019, our team participated in over 750 community events and we truly miss these in-person interactions during this COVID-19 pandemic.
Our team has found new ways to engage with our community, including hosting our community meetings online. However, it is not the same as being able to connect in-person. My team and I want everyone to remain healthy and safe, and we look forward to resuming our in-person community engagement efforts."
Blair Cohn, Executive Director; Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association:
"Soon after the Safer at Home Orders went into effect and mobility was limited, a sense of panic set in. We could not come and go like normal. And it was like the apocalypse for our business members.
I soon realized how many things we had taken for granted like the simple acts of visiting friends and family, going out to eat, going to the store—they all seemed immediately threatening. We had to hunker down and try to avoid the dark cloud of COVID-19 to pass us over. We missed movies, concerts, and basic socializing. I missed going to the boxing gym.
My family is wired to be on the move all the time. We like to go exploring in Los Angeles or elsewhere to see new things. It was difficult to not be able to move around freely for four months but we have recently started to do it again—safely, of course."
Cynthia Guidry, Director; Long Beach Airport:
"At Long Beach Airport, we have never taken our travelers for granted. After all, we couldn’t be the successful enterprise that we are today without them. But this pandemic, and all the necessary changes it has caused our industry to make to ensure air travelers remain safe, has certainly made us appreciate our passengers even more.
Since March, we have missed the activity on our campus, the families navigating their way through the checkpoint, then soaking in the artwork and relaxing with a tasty beverage in the garden area before boarding. In the meantime, we have been focused on providing our essential services for those who need to travel.
We take great pride in serving the travelling public and, as we now begin to see a slow but steady return of passengers, LGB eagerly looks forward to more typical volumes and delivering the excellent service that we are so well known for to our valued travelers."
Justin Rudd, Founder and Chief Inspiration Officer; Community Action Team (CAT):
"Pre-COVID, my months were spent planning, promoting, and putting on special events for Long Beach – about 50 annual contests, events and programs. For example, we’d gather 200 or so volunteers monthly to clean the beach, and about 10,000 people at the Long Beach Touch-A-Truck. I enjoyed being shoulder to shoulder with friends and fellow citizens, shaking hands, hugging, and sharing smiles. Those are things I miss.
When things resume, I look forward to indoor dining, unmasked visits to Rosie’s Dog Beach, teaching fitness classes inside the Belmont Athletic Club. I’m eager to resume chats at coffee shops, sitting in church on Sunday mornings, and visiting with neighbors. I look forward to being able to organize people to clean beaches, to parade dogs for charity, to host bake-offs and spelling bees, to lead camp for deserving students, and to continue annual service trips to rural Kenya.
The pandemic has taught me to be even more thankful for neighbors, nature, books, and downtime. To be aware of those who are hurting. To pray more diligently. I’ve learned how to Zoom to teach fitness classes, lead reunions and prayer groups. I’ve learned how Long Beach is so connected digitally, and not just physically. The 103,000 fans of my “Long Beach, Calif.” page on Facebook have been super active. I’ve learned to stay prepared and stocked. Whoever would have thought there would be a run on toilet paper, hand sanitizer and eggs? It’s also taught me that it’s okay to just stay home, and get stuff done."
Shannon Shondeff, Owner; FIT4MOM Long Beach & Palos Verdes | San Pedro:
"Seeing and connecting with my FIT4MOM village in person was something that was taken for granted during COVID-19. Being a member of FIT4MOM Long Beach for over 5 years, prior to COVID-19, I would have the opportunity to see other moms and their little ones for daily workouts and conversations in the beautiful parks of Long Beach. Meeting daily, our mama village was able to share and discuss all things motherhood. With Stay at Home Orders in place, we changed our platform and turned our village to 100% virtual. Even though virtual was a viable and safe option for daily connections with our FIT4MOM Long Beach tribe, it is difficult to replace the meaningful interactions that take place when we are gathered together in-person. Once in-person classes were allowed at the parks I realized how much I had taken for granted our community meet-ups and the positive impact from being together and seeing other moms face-to-face."
Piya Bose, Ph.D.,Dean of Students; California State University, Long Beach:
"While COVID has been disruptive to many aspects of our lives, one of my great joys over the last several months has been exploring the local parks in and around the city of Long Beach! El Dorado Park and Bluff Park have been two of my favorites to regularly visit! Both the parks offer plenty of open space, views of water, and beautiful scenery!
Spending time outdoors (socially distanced of course) has been a safe and enjoyable way to spend time with friends and enjoy the sunshine! Being outdoors is good for one’s health, soul, and overall well-being – I appreciate having access to such beautiful spaces and ideal weather during this challenging time!"
Tom Hicks “Grandpa Tom”, Founder/Director; Tom Hicks Baseball Camps:
"As a member of the Long Beach community for 64 years, I miss very much seeing the people of our community enjoying all that our beautiful parks have to offer. I also miss seeing the youth in our wonderful neighborhoods participating in the fantastic youth sports organizations that our city offers.
Over the years, it has given me great joy to see children and young adults participating in sports and activities knowing the social, physical and emotional benefits of those activities. The opportunity to participate in city activities is something that bonds our community together and I miss that experience. I also miss seeing all the incredible fitness gyms that exist in Long Beach open and being able to witness the joy and satisfaction that it brings for people to exercise.
Last, but not least, I miss seeing people being able to freely worship in our city’s beautiful churches. I pray that the pandemic ends soon and we can get back to enjoying ALL the benefits that our city of Long Beach has to offer."