Queens, NY: The Loudest Clap There Ever Was, with Tears Streaming
By Joanna Gonzalez
The clanging and banging of pots and pans. Snaps of fireworks, whaling of sirens, salutes, shouts, screams, whistles, the sound of music, cheers, and of course droplets of tears.
The 7 pm essential worker clap of Queens, New York never ceases to amaze me. Right on time, down to the minute, on the hour, of every last second.
It is the other kind of “contagious” that spreads a one-of-a-kind love that can only be found in the face of a complete stranger.
Since March 27, Never Missing a Beat
While most of us have claimed to lose some sense or recollection of time, that 7 pm clap does not miss a beat.
And as much as we try to forget what’s really going on outside of our windows by entertaining ourselves with Netflix, video games, and eating processed foods, we have slowly come to realize that the essential worker clap is ESSENTIAL for all of us, even the non-essential workers. I’m starting to believe it’s actually more essential for those of us sitting inside not on the front-lines.
To this day, I’ll never forget the first clap. It was March 27th, and it was a Friday. We were so scared to go outside, we weren’t even sure if we were allowed to. We figured we’d just do it in the apartment. Perhaps on the roof of the building, maybe on the fire escape.
But I knew I wanted to see people’s faces, and I didn’t have a view of the street. I even got into a huge fight about going outside or not. We thought people would look at us weird. My gut told me to go outside on the streets anyway because I knew I needed to see and hear everyone. I made sure to grab a wooden spoon and pot. I didn’t care.
Feeling so helpless for the past 2 weeks, knowing that some of my family and loved ones are out on the lines, I knew this was my only way to express gratitude and emotion towards what our city was succumbing to. So I decided to go outside, and I’ll never regret it. Low and behold there were people outside clapping.
Crying. Fire trucks. This time people hanging outside their windows, not hidden behind them. This is Queens after all. How could I forget? How could I be so scared and doubt my own city? I clanged and banged for a full 3 minutes. Tears streaming down my face. I thought that the clap was just going to be a one-time thing, but it went from every Friday to every single day at 7 pm, and now it’s been over a month. Always on time, and still counting.
The clap is a sweet-sounding reminder that we are all in this madness together, and every person as much as the next is also experiencing some kind of loneliness or claustrophobia, cooped up in tiny apartment buildings awaiting the next day of sunshine, only to realize that we can’t fully bask in it because there is a pandemic threatening our entire world.
There is a bug, and it seems to specifically thrive on our people of Queens. Menacing every nitty-gritty nook and cranny—and I’m not talking about cockroaches. At this point, I’ll take those any day.
Diversity In The Face of Adversity
Queens is hands down the most diverse place on the planet. Which unfortunately makes us the most affected place on the planet. Not New York City, but Queens.
The supreme queen of all queens. The motherboard, and mother-load. The fusion of all languages, nations, foods and traditions is so dense here, that you can literally smell the borough.
I mean truly smell the aromas and differences in diversity. Not only that, but we also make it work and function, with no fighting or discrimination. It is a magical place to live and be.
Constantly changing and evolving, races, and faces of people, cultures, and colors of life.
The waves of immigration over past generations are what make Queens one of the most extraordinary places on the planet. No one or nothing can ever take that away from us, not even COVID-19.
The Epicenter of The Most Epic Center
We know this is real. This is war. We are at war with ourselves. While half of us are out there physically fighting a virus that we can’t see or touch, the other half of us are internally fighting another battle that we also can’t see or touch. We don’t know what’s worse. The fear and paranoia of stepping outside, putting ourselves at risk by going to work, or the feeling of being useless and a waste of time and space by sitting safely sound at home.
To hear, see, and watch life unfold in front of us with no control or means to help, as an ambulance passes by every 20 minutes, is just soul-crushing. I heard one just before. I’ve lost count—of deaths, days, time, and sirens.
This has quickly become a sickening game. One of the selfless and the selfish. Of the lucky and the unlucky.
Our entire world has been split in two. We are all split in two, absolutely heart-broken. And those affected the most are what make this beautiful borough what it is.
The backbone of the City
The backbone of our entire city—and country for that matter, lie here in this tiny borough of Queens. Our beliefs and morals, how we see and perceive the rest of the world. We here in Queens set the precedent for acceptance of diversity, change, and migration.
Where dreams do manifest. Where you can be whoever you want. Where we are taught not to be afraid of who we are or where we’re from. We applaud and embrace it in fact. This virus has caused us to hide and scurry from our divine differences.
It has forced us to put away our customs and traditions, our food trucks, and nail salons. Churches and mosques. Places of worship and artistic/cultural centers. We have been stripped of everything that uniquely individualizes us—but that is exactly why I believe most of us continue to clap.
Who We Are
We look forward to that clap. That clap reminds us that we are still who we are, and we WILL get past this. It centers and grounds us, brings us back to our roots. Assures and asks us not to lose focus of what’s really important and at stake. Lives. An essential worker’s life.
My life, your life. Life, in general. We are clapping for life and another day. One more day. One day at a time.
Joanna Gonzalez was born in Queens, New York, where she is currently living. She is an all-around artist, writer, and designer. She divides her time contributing to various online travel, art, and culture magazines. She also co-owns a designer label company called Alienz Incorporated, which creates and customizes unique costumes and decor for the New York City art scene.
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