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There was a profound difference between our lives before and after March 2020, when the World Health Organization declared that the COVID-19 coronavirus spreading rapidly around the world was officially a pandemic.

A photo taken on March 8 2020 at the Mutiny Cafe in Denver after attending a friend’s first and last concert of 2020. The picture was mainly taken for the quote. Image by Brooke Gilmore.

Almost overnight in March of 2020, Colorado Governor Jared Polis shut down Colorado’s ski resorts at the height of the spring break ski season in an attempt to stem the rapid spread of the virus. We were all ordered into “stay at home” status, which altered everything about our daily lives.

A year later, not yet through the crisis, with vaccines rolled out and vaccination clinics underway, life is different.  But Americans, and the world, have learned a lot about perseverance, survival, and collaboration.

One year into this pandemic, we look back at what life was like before our world changed.

Most tragically, we continue to mourn the more than 540,000 Americans who are gone from our lives. We have mourned the separation from our loved ones that we hope the arrival of vaccines will end. We remember the fear, and frustration, and disruption that this pandemic has brought.

Public health experts tell us that we are not out-of-the woods yet — the combination of not yet having herd immunity from broad dissemination of the vaccines and the rapid increase of COVID-19 variants means that we are in a crucial phase. The next two months could determine what the future looks like. If anything, the third wave now occurring in Europe, with Italy, France, and Spain in lockdowns, and Germany threatening to do the same is a warning to America.

Distantly, we remember what life was like — before — and wonder if it will ever be quite like that again. This is a collection of the last photos on the Ark Valley Voice crew’s smartphones before COVID-19 lockdown in March, 2020:

Gidget & Biscuit chilling in Arizona. The last picture I took before things started shutting down. Although the dog parks closed the next day both dogs have enjoyed having us mostly to themselves this past year. Most activities in post COVID have included them. Photo by Michelle Pujol

Last photo before lockdown, taken in a Manhattan restaurant (pre-face masks) by AVV intern Torey Wyman, who as a Colorado State University journalism student was on a trip to New York City.






Arriving in Arizona a week prior to the COVID-19 shutdown. Photo by Michelle Pujol.

Hildegard of Centerville is the last photo I saved on my phone before Everything Changed. I’m not sure the pandemic has been a bad thing for our dogs. Eat. Sleep. Bark. More time to play. I think it’s important to remember that last piece as we ease out of the pandemic. Photo/Tara Flanagan

Last photo before lockdown on a carefree day in Boston for AVV reporter Hannah Harn.

Last photos before lockdown, taken on a busy street in downtown Manhattan. Once the pandemic hit New York and hit the city especially hard, streets were deserted. Photo by AVV intern Torey Wyman

Elks grazed on fields along CR 270 west of U.S. 285 on a morning just prior to the declaration of the pandemic, in a migration pattern that is millennia-old. For the elk, nothing has changed. Photo by Jan Wondra.

As HRRMC prepared for the virus, initial testing included a ‘triage tent’ outside the hospital Emergency Room. This day – March 17th, 2020 was one of the last photos before the initial lockdown. The sun about to set provided some highlight over the tent ….. little did we know the sun was about to set on many aspects of our lives too. Photo by Dan Smith.

This photo was taken in the Commissioners’ meeting room at the hastily-called March 13 pandemic emergency meeting of county leadership and first responders. The room was tense, and no one knew what lay ahead. On March 11 the World Health Organization had declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and that week, under state executive orders, the entire state shut down. That first meeting became the COVID-19 Roundtable, which has met virtually … at first five days a week … and continuing even now twice a week, for the past year. Many believe this collaborative effort has helped protect Chaffee County from some of the worst impacts of the pandemic. Photo by Jan Wondra.