During the COVID-19 crisis, J. Tebias Perry, founder of Spotlight on the Community, (left) and Demarcus Austin (inset)have decided to spotlight persons who are on the front lines and are essential workers to keep our neighborhoods, hospitals and communities safe. We would like to shine a light on these individuals to show recognition and appreciation for their sacrifices.
I am James. This is my story.
For all of you out there who don’t know me, my name is James and I am a bartender at Midtown Moon. In my years of tending bar (going on 11), I’ve been through some ups and downs. COVID-19 is one of the downs. We will make it through this crisis, but it saddens me to think of all my coworkers and other industry people who are affected by it! I want to shout out a special thank you to all my Facebook friends who have been helping me financially and mentally through this very hard time. My family and I are very grateful. This is not the end. I will be back to tend bar and cannot wait to be back with the friendly faces who make my work environment awesome! Thank you all and I hope to see you sooner than later.
My name is Tony. This is my story.
I started my career in the airline industry 22 years ago. I’ve worked for Delta Air Lines for 12 years, after previously working for two other companies. My experiences in this industry have allowed me to see the entire world many times over. I have gained a knowledge that no classroom could ever teach.
I was based in New York City the night before and the day of Sept. 11, 2001. After seeing something like 9/11, I felt I wouldn’t ever live through anything else so incredibly horrible. Well, I was wrong; COVID-19 has surpassed that terrible day.
This pandemic has changed the entire world! I’m sure we will overcome it, but I know for sure that the world has changed forever.
Memo in Leather
I am Memo in Leather. This is my story.
I am Memo in Leather. I consider myself a leatherman and live in Atlanta. I have two jobs: one at Barking Leather After Dark and one at Kroger. Since the coronavirus emergency began, Barking Leather After Dark was forced to close. Fortunately, that did not happen with my other job; otherwise, I would have been put in a difficult position to earn money. Despite what we are currently experiencing, I try to go to work with my best face on. I think that influences not only how I feel throughout the day, but also how customers feel. I try to make them forget, even for a moment, about this situation and put a smile on their faces. If I succeed, I feel satisfied.
I am Chad. This is my story.
I have been in the bar industry for well over two decades and have been at Oscar’s Atlanta for 11 years. I have been nominated for “Best of Atlanta” for five years and won in four of those years. I absolutely love my community and do everything I can to ensure that when you come into the bar, you are treated like family.
We are devastated by the COVID-19 virus. We made the hard decision to close the day before the Mayor signed the stay-at-home order. We, like many of the other bars, made a decision based on civic consciousness to close before we were forced to do so. No bar wants to be the reason why this virus spreads and gets people sick. I have made “safety checks” with my staff on a daily basis, making sure that their sanity is still intact and that they are staying healthy.
COVID-19 has devastated our world, our nation, our state, our community, and our industry. It has been very difficult in the last couple weeks, but we are bartenders. We are the ones you look to for guidance and to uplift your spirits. We are the ones who are competitive and cutthroat, but at the end of the day we are family, we take care of each other, and we stand united. We are bartenders and we will get through this together.
I am Jake Glazier. This is my story.
I’ve seen how, firsthand, the pandemic and quarantine caused by the coronavirus have devastated the restaurant and service industry, reducing businesses to providing exclusively to-go food and beverages. Along with a drastic reduction in overall sales, the hours and shifts available to work have also been reduced to such a degree that many restaurants no longer need nearly the number of staff that they once required. Nonetheless, I have been really fortunate in that 10th & Piedmont and G’s Midtown have allowed me to work evening shifts and provide the community, still, with a unique menu blend of comfort food, Southern cuisine, and seafood. Not only that, we have almost daily specials, including Chef’s Saturday BBQ that has become a hit on the block. Not to mention to-go drinks crafted by yours truly … I am inspired every night at 8 pm when I get to witness Midtown come together and cheer and applaud for our first responders.
I’ve been in the service industry since I was 19. I started at Bennigan’s in St. Pete Beach, Florida, and have worked my way up the ranks to where I am today—tending bar on the corner of the rainbow crosswalk. My other job (because in these times, let’s be honest, we all have another job) is teaching psychology as an adjunct professor. I love the bridge I’ve built between these two worlds, sometimes even using my skills as a therapist with some of my patrons—what a deal, a drink and a counseling session! While I think we’re in a challenging time right now and change is never easy, I am hopeful that in the future things will be even better than they were before.
I am Jesse Cannon. This is my story.
I grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina. I went to Boston University for undergrad (Class of ’99), University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill for med school (Class of ’05), and Orlando Regional Medical Center for residency (class of ’08). I have lived in Atlanta since 2008. I’m married to Kelly Wohr. No kids yet, but that will change soon ….
How COVID-19 has affected my career:
I am a medical doctor working in an emergency department here in Atlanta. I never thought I would be working under the conditions my colleagues and I—as well as nurses, respiratory therapists, Emergency Medical Service providers, emergency room (ER) and radiology techs, registration staff, and even environmental services—find ourselves in now. Working hard and being busy is something we’re used to; the flu season this year and in 2018 come to mind as the most immediate examples. However, we have never worked under conditions where we were afraid that the more we took care of patients affected by a particular disease, the more at risk we were of becoming patients with by that disease ourselves.
I have seen the range of patients with COVID-19—those who have only minor upper respiratory symptoms all the way to the ones who require intubation and mechanical ventilation because they cannot breathe sufficiently on their own. There certainly is a correlation between age and other medical problems with the severity of symptoms, but it is not absolute and I have seen young, otherwise healthy patients come in incredibly sick.
At home, I have seen the news and learned of the ER nurse in New York and the ER doctor in New Jersey who have died of this disease just in the last couple of weeks. So, though I consider myself healthy, I can’t say for certain that I myself wouldn’t get very ill if I came down with COVID-19. I think about this every time I enter a patient’s room, whether or not they are there for a COVID-related problem.
Fortunately, so far, we continue to have an adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), though that is in part because we reuse masks to varying degrees to conserve this supply. Despite use of PPE, sanitizer, and soap and water, there is still a nonzero chance that I could get sick through exposure at work. So, the main way this pandemic has affected me and my job is through some degree of fear. This was never a part of my job before and I hope that it is not for much longer, though I also worry things will worsen here over the next few weeks to months before they get better. Despite this, however, I pledged myself to medicine and helping others years ago and I will continue to come to work and be there for my patients so long as I am healthy and able, despite the risk.
How COVID has affected my life:
I feel fortunate that I can still leave the house to go to my job, as can my husband as well, for we would both get cabin fever if we were staying at home all the. However, my personal risk increases every time I leave the house, especially when I go to my job, so there are drawbacks. Like everyone else, we were upset to have had trips, shows, concerts, and plans of all types interrupted.
Worse was the delay in our plans to build our family. We have a surrogate who plans to carry twins for us, and we planned to have the embryos transferred this month. Unfortunately the outbreak shut down our IVF clinic and getting our surrogate here by plane would be too risky anyway, so these plans are suspended for now.
We are making the best of our time at home by catching up on TV shows, learning new recipes to cook and drinks to make, and getting a backlog of yardwork and home projects done. We are trying to flatten the curve as best we can, and can’t wait for the world to come alive again after this disaster. Instead of winter 2021 babies, we’re planning for spring babies, which isn’t the worst if it works out that way in the end.
I am Tamara Stephens. This is my story.
I work as a school bus driver for Cherokee County Board of Education. I have been there for 33 years. I love my job and this virus has disrupted the lives of all bus drivers everywhere. I miss my children and my bus driver friends. I’m grateful for the things our school system is doing for children, parents and staff. Cherokee County rocks! I am also a caregiver for elderly people, but I cannot perform those duties because of the risk it would expose them to. I miss them very much. I pray this will be over soon. Thank you for thinking of me.
I am Brandon Russett. This is my story.
COVID-19 is something I never could have imagined happening. I’ve always been extremely careful about using proper PPE with all patients, but now I am questioning if it is enough. I’m fearful now that I may catch something I could bring home to my wife and children that could harm them, and that scares me. We stay home and limit our interactions with others as much as possible. I am constantly checking my temperature and worrying that every little cough or sore throat could be something more. Shortages off proper PPE and basic supplies are something I never could have fathomed. I’m looking forward to the end of this pandemic and going back to the way things were before.
I graduated high school at 16 years of age, and I always had an interest in the fire department and EMS. I wasn’t old enough to work in the field yet, so I had to wait. I got a job as an electricians helper. One morning while I was at work, I was walking down a driveway. Next thing I know, I am waking up in the back of an ambulance. I was told that I had been hit by a car. I was confused, but remember asking the paramedic questions about his job. After recovering from my injuries I started emergency medical technician (EMT) school at 17. After graduating I worked for eight years as an EMT, then went on to paramedic school. I completely love what I do, and I could not have chosen a better career path.
I am Matt Price. This is my story.
I’m an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurse and my hospital is the COVID-19 intake center for our regional health system. I’ve only had a few COVID-19 patients; our community has been lucky so far. But as the union president, I have had to fight to protect my nurses, for additional PPE and standards.
I’ve also been blessed to see the community give us words of encouragement and gifts to show their its. Some people have donated face shields and others food. Also, many friends, blood family, and leather family have reached out to make sure I’m staying healthy.
Love, care, and concern for others is alive and well! Despite the tragedies, my belief is that love wins!
Master Inferno (right)
My name in the Atlanta leather community is Master Inferno. This is my story.
I am the Deputy Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director in Haralson County. There hasn’t been a day I haven’t worked in over a month. I have personally been responsible for the acquisition of PPE and other safety devices for the hundreds of EMTs, paramedics, police officers, firefighters, and other public safety personnel in Haralson and other counties.
I stayed away from our home for two weeks straight and worked 14–16 hour days every night just to ensure my family didn’t get ill.
I was asked how COVID-19 has changed my home and work life. This is how I answered.
I pay more attention to coming in with my shoes on and trying to shower before touching my family. I try to not contaminate anyone. I wash my hands more. I clean my room and wash clothes more.
I don’t go near folks and pick slower times to go to stores. I make sure my family is protected when I go out. I don’t take my 5-year-old in places if I don’t have to. I don’t ask family to go in if they’re not needed. I shop to have things last more than a week. I keep gas in my car more so I don’t have to gas up as often.
I don’t get near people who look sick or who are not following the guidelines.
The pandemic has consumed my work life to the point I dream about it. I have nightmares that I can’t protect my family.
I went from working eight hours a day to 14 or more. I went from a five day work week to seven. I work on COVID-19 stuff daily. I have reports due daily. I’m always looking for PPE for first responders (there is none).
I worry that I will not be able to protect the people that I’m sworn to protect. If I get sick, people could die. I’m constantly looking at news briefs and getting on conference calls. My phone rings nonstop. I get an average of 30 emails daily or more. Someone at my job needs something all of the time.
I have had to stay overnights at the fire station instead of my home so that I don’t infect my family. I’ve not hugged my mother in six weeks. I’ve seen my family a total of 10 days in six weeks.