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John and Susan Hitt at Airilie Gardens in Wilmington, NC. Courtesy John Hitt

I keep hearing there’s a good chance the way we live our lives will soon change. I think it’s safe to say change has already begun. Readers, you’ll probably agree things have felt different for the past week or two, as cancellations, postponements and closings have been announced amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Perhaps we as a country should have started taking it seriously a lot sooner than now. I’ll save that debate for later.

My wife and I are watching all of this from our mutual self-quarantine. She got sick on Friday night, went to the doctor Saturday, and was tested for the flu. When it came back negative, they listened to her lungs, handed her a mask, with orders to get the hell home, and to call the health department Monday morning. The health department representative, who clearly had taken similar calls for days, refused to do a test—as did my wife’s physician. She was told they only have a few tests and needed to keep them for high-risk patients.

It’s frustrating that test kits are in limited supply. We as a country should have better access to tests like the rest of the world. Again, I’ll save that debate for later.

All we can focus on now is our safety and preserving our way of life. By “we” I mean all of us in the Cape Fear. We’re accustomed to facing natural disasters and coming together to help each other in times of crises. Those of us who have been around long enough can attest to how the hurricanes just run together. “When did we lose the roof? Was that Fran or Floyd or Florence?”

With COVID-19 we’re looking down the barrel of a much different gun. This crisis is affecting us all—not just Wilmington, not just the East Coast, not just the United States. The entirety of society has been and will continue to be changed. If things get as bad as we fear (“Could everything shutter through June, July?”) I believe the entire world will come together on some level and do what’s right to protect our global community.

In Wilmington we have an advantage. We’re used to acts of nature causing disruptions in our lives; we know how to help each other rebuild in the aftermath. But if we have a flaw, it’s that we’re too used to it. We’re used to storms not being as catastrophic as they could have been. We’re used to joking about the empty bread and milk aisles. We’re used to beer aisles and ABC stores emptying even faster. We’re used to that time period after a hurricane, when we get back to life and debrief on how many trees we lost or how long we were without power.

There’s no National Hurricane Center to track this one. There’s no evacuating, no boarding windows, no hurricane parties. Though, we can look at how nations ahead of us are dealing with the virus and shift our focus to taking better precautions. Also, we can take advantage of skills we’ve learned from adversity we’ve faced.

We love where we live; we know how to protect our neighbors and ourselves. But we have to listen to real guidance: practicing social distancing, not shaking hands or hugging, constantly washing our hands, not hoarding toilet paper and selling it out of the back of our trucks like assholes.






I’m proud to say encore has published every week since 1985, with the lone exception coming during one of those hurricanes (we think it was Fran). We work hard to make it happen, and we believe what we do is important: helping mold a tight-knit community through arts and entertainment, food and fun, lengthy calendars that tell you where to go and what to do, not to mention pointing you to a bevy of advertisers who are all local. We support small businesses across our town; they’re among the most important factors in keeping our vibrant, beautiful city appealing.

As a small business, we at encore are concerned about the future, and we know our fellow mom-and-pops are, too. We’re working on programs for businesses, restaurants and retailers to do more virtual business and even bounce back when our economy picks up again. We have so many wonderfully quirky retail spots and delicious restaurants and bars to continue promoting even during a downturn (including the most secretive and possibly fake fast-food restaurant ever to exist; we’re looking at you, Taco Roos).

We promise to keep an open line of communication with you about all events happening or cancelling in coming weeks, and to provide human interest pieces that showcase the best of us during the worst of times. While we switch our focus away from event-based coverage, as public gatherings are being discouraged, we hope our citizens will continue to support our artistic community regardless. We are home to the oldest community theatre company in the country (Thalian Association), not to mention other companies that bring more than 40 productions to life annually. We have an amazing film studio (Screen Gems) and independent film community. We have a plethora of fabulous writers and poets, musicians and bands, and visual and performing artists working in all media—not to mention the nonprofits that help lift up folks from all walks of life.

While so many in our creative community will suffer economically by not performing or by postponing exhibits, sales and book launches, we ask you to reconsider before getting a refund for that local concert, theatre production or charity event that cancelled. Consider it a donation to help strengthen community. Or make a donation to the nonprofits that have had to slash so many fundraisers this spring—usually a season rife with funds that better every corner of Wilmington.

In the end we need to stick together even if we are apart. In the end we are #WilmingtonStrong.


John Hitt

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. M Hellmann

    March 19, 2020 at 4:31 pm

    Well said! Thank you.

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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