12.06.2021, 08:39

Millions of Americans, after 15 months of heartbreak and sacrifice, are returning to prepandemic activities for the first time

With vaccination rates rising and virus cases declining, there is a hopefulness to this summer that feels exciting and unique. Millions of Americans, after 15 months of heartbreak and sacrifice, are returning to prepandemic activities for the first time.

We didn’t want to let this hard-earned moment pass us by, so we asked readers to send us photos of the first moments they felt that something had changed, and that life was returning to something resembling normal.

The Great Reopening

“After not stepping in a classroom for 15 months and completing the last semesters of my undergraduate career online, it was such a relief to go receive my diploma in person with my mom watching in the audience,” he wrote. “It’s finally looking like the days of endless Zoom calls are behind us!”

Once again, groups of strangers are meeting, and bonding — as they did recently on a three-night rafting trip down the Rouge River near Galice, Ore. Evenings were filled with home-cooked meals, and banjo and guitar jam sessions, wrote Pat Scheans (below, far right, flashing a peace sign).

Photo: Josh Chang

“It was fabulous and so very refreshing to not think about Covid; it was washed from my mind.”

Or the grin of Wilburn C. Rowden, a 98-year-old World War II veteran, who finally returned to church services (and his social life) in Jefferson City, Mo., for the first time in 17 months.

Millions of Americans, after 15 months of heartbreak and sacrifice, are returning to prepandemic activities for the first time

Wilburn C. Rowden. Photo: Paula Medlin

In photo after photo that readers sent in, we noticed one unmistakable element: huge smiles, like the pure joy on the face of 4-month-old Oliver Seavey after seeing his recently vaccinated grandmother, Meg Spicher, for the first time.

Photo: Monica Seavey

Across the US, the vaccines have opened the door to family reunions, travel, group socializing, indoor dining and live music.

“I played my first live show in over a year,” wrote Lauren Gale from Denver (below, far left). “There were no masks in sight. It felt amazing and safe, only because I am vaccinated. May as well see if it works, eh?”

Photo: Caleb Stewart

Scenes from a new world

Photographers have also documented Americans re-emerging from the pandemic in all 50 states in recent weeks. Here’s a glimpse of what their cameras captured.

A Segway tour in Washington.Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Beachgoers making their way out of the choppy ocean in Miami Beach.Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

Philadelphia 76ers fans attending a home playoff game against the Washington Wizards.Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Let us know how you’re dealing with the pandemic. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.


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