The New Yorker’s new cover story is titled “The Plague Year,” and what a year it has been.

Who could have imagined, at this time last year, what 2020 would bring? Not me. Not you. Not anybody.

It’s still hard to grasp the fact that COVID 19 has killed more than 300,000 Americans, helped defeat an incumbent president, left millions unemployed, ruined businesses, upended sports, and closed schools, theaters, restaurants, parks … even churches.

So far, our family has been lucky. None of our loved ones has perished. Two aunts – both in nursing homes – came down with COVID, as did two nephews and one of their wives. One daughter now works from home; the other is a nurse who sometimes treats COVID patients.

Laurie and I are retired. We wear masks, but we’ve been around plenty of people who don’t.

Still, the pandemic has affected everyday life in many ways.

We haven’t been to a movie in nearly a year. Although we miss the theater experience and the overpriced popcorn, it’s not a big deal.

Staying at home more has been great for my reading and genealogy. Online, I have discovered all sorts of ancestors, and I’ve read 15 or 20 books that have been waiting for me for years.

We still go to church every Sunday, and masks are mandatory. Every other pew is roped off. We figure attendance is at about 25 percent. It’s sad. My monthly breakfasts with former co-workers have ceased, too.

Some of our favorite restaurants have reduced their hours or switched to carry-out only. We do our best to patronize those small businesses, and we leave good tips. I’ve also made a point of visiting little retail shops that must be scrambling to stay afloat.

We haven’t been on a plane or a train. We made a weekend trip to Louisville, Ky., and spent a week with six other family members in Charleston, S.C. That’s it.

Although the Appalachian Trail – my home away from home for 40+ years – was all but closed, I’ve been able to do lots of short hikes locally. Still, I missed loading up the backpack, taking Amtrak, and hitting the trail for a week.

COVID 19 killed three celebrities whose lives crossed mine, if only for a moment.

Laurie and I loved the legendary singer-songwriter John Prine, and we saw him in concert twice. When he died last spring it was like losing a fun-loving, brilliant friend.

Country music’s Charley Pride died Dec. 12. I interviewed him before the first Farm Aid concert in 1985. Kind, sweet, and self-effacing, he remained, at heart, a sharecropper’s son from Sledge, Miss.

The late Herman Cain was the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO who ran for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. I met him and covered his inspiring talk to a class at Purdue University. He absolutely dazzled. And when he closed by singing “The Impossible Dream,” everyone – including yours truly – dabbed tears away.

What a year.

Danville native Kevin Cullen is a former Commercial-News reporter. Reach him at

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