The Trip Back To “Normal”

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

It was the day before Governor Ivey gave her press conference that signaled the official beginning of the trip back to “Normal.” It would be hopefully our very last phone interview between Mayor Ronnie and myself, and in two weeks we will either be able to sit six feet apart across from each other at the round table in his office, or we will holler from either end of the meeting room table at City Hall. Either way, being in the same room again is going to be most welcome!

The first thing on the agenda was the celebration of Ronnie Marks being married to Sandra Marks for 52 years. “Way to go, Mr. Mayor!” I exclaimed. He countered with, “She has put up with me all these years, which is saying a lot.” These days, a more-than-golden anniversary is a major accomplishment, and no doubt when restaurants re-open, there will be a real, live dinner out.

We discussed the media update that had been held on April 24, and just how proud we were of the city and county leaders representing government, education, and medicine. “Our leaders have done so well during this time, and you also have the utility guys who are out taking of the community during COVID and storms at the same time,” he said. We both commented on the letter that Limestone County Commission Chair Colin Daly read to the media group assembled at City Hall. It was an odd scene, with the chairs set six feet apart and people with masks on. Chairman Daly’s youngest son had received a hand-written letter from his teacher, who poured out her heart about how much she missed their class. She made a point of talking about his character traits, how hard he had worked, how much she would have loved to have finished out the year with him, and how she will never forget him. All of us had to swallow hard to fight tears, and I must admit, I would have loved to have had a teacher like that. I think we all would have!

“We have been working on a plan for re-opening, and it will be tweaked after the Governor makes her announcements,” said the mayor. “We need to use common sense, and stick to the plan because it is working. The next two weeks are critical. It is a time for heavy prayer,” he added.

We continued our discussion about the kids, especially the seniors who had had to miss so much of what we take for granted. The mayor had been in constant contact with mayors from all over Alabama, and marveled about the plans of one high school that is planning on having an online graduation. “They will have all of the students on one page, and when they read their name, a large of photo of them will be shown on the screen,” he said. “Technology has been our friend for sure,” I replied.

Someone recently told the mayor, “I never thought I’d miss the sound of kids hollerin’ on the baseball field so much.” “Amen,” I said, and then he added, “People are antsy, and want to get back to ‘normal.’ And, no matter what we we do to re-open carefully, if there are any deaths, that is going to be blamed on re-opening. We have to prepare for that.”

Mayor Ronnie went on to talk about the fact that the bridge on Forrest Street is nearing completion, in spite of the fact that a major piece of machinery has broken twice in two weeks. Amazingly, that project is on time, and it will be one of the many things we celebrate as we begin the trip back to “Normal.”

We finished our time with the assurance that just like after 9/11, we will never go back to the old normal, but the new one is full of possibilities. Then we prayed, and it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner