2020 Hindsight

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Aren’t we glad it’s in the rearview?

While 2021 will inevitably have its own surprises, we reached the finish line of 2020 with increased patience, a broader perspective and a renewed appreciation for “community.”

   Here is the story of 2020, told by a lucky 13 people who are peeking confidently through the front window of 2021.

On Jan. 1, what did you expect from 2020?

“I have been looking forward to 2020 since I was in 4th grade and realized it was the year I would graduate from high school. Because I’m a numbers person, I was delighted by the idea that having been born in 2002, I would graduate in 2020. The dates look so good next to each other. As the year began, I was looking forward most to my graduation. I attended the Utah County Academy of Sciences, which allowed me to earn my associate’s degree from UVU along with my high school diploma. I was going to turn 18, graduate college, and graduate from high school all in the same fortnight. I thought it would be the best time of my life. Things didn’t turn out quite the way I had imagined.” — Bonny Skarstedt

“Honestly? I expected my best year yet. I was excited to turn 10. I mean, double digits! Who doesn’t want to be double
digits?” — Margaret Stewart

“Every year is a new chance to make a difference. At Now I Can, we planned to continue our service to kids with disabilities — offering physical therapy, planning events for families, fundraising events, etc. We partnered with a local company to do some big service and awareness events, and started a renovation project in our building — trying to make a space usable for the kids to practice riding scooters, bikes, etc.” — Tracey Christensen

“I planned on 2020 to be a positive year. I was turning 50! I was excited to coach a spring lacrosse season for Lone Peak High, watching my daughter play BYU soccer and a trip with the team to Europe.  Business projections looked good for the real estate market so I was optimist that we would have a good year.” — Bruce Tucker

“We had just found out we were expecting our first child, and I was really nervous at the beginning of 2020 because I didn’t feel ready to become a parent. I was hoping to work an internship from January until July, then to have a great football season with BYU after that.” — Talmage Gunther

 

When did you first hear about COVID-19?

“My wife and I were in California the first week of February for a quick couple getaway. Life there was as busy as ever, but oddly we noticed tons of people wearing face masks — so many people that it stood out to us and created in us a little subconscious concern. We walked around asking question like, “What’s up with the masks?” “Should we have one?” “Should we buy more hand sanitizer?” “What’s going on?” It seemed like half the crowd knew something we weren’t privy to. That’s when we first started paying attention to COVID-19.” — Ed Axley

“I actually first heard about COVID-19 in January from my son-in-law. We were in labor and delivery with my daughter Tiffany when her husband, Cody, started telling me about it. He said he had heard the virus was very serious in China and he heard it could potentially get to the USA. He and Tiffany had already gone to Costco and stocked up! So then, literally, our whole family made Costco runs to stock up. That was January 26, 2020. I didn’t expect it to impact my life. Honestly I thought Cody was a little nuts, but he’s a smart guy so I decided to be safe rather than sorry. So glad I listened to Cody!” — Stephanie Vincent

“The first time I heard about COVID-19 was in my English class at UVU. Rumors were floating around that all classes would no longer be able to meet in person. In that same class, my professor said he would bet his life something like that could never happen. By the time we met the next week, all classes were moved to online. It turns out that class period was the last time I saw my professor in person!” — Brinley Bodtcher

“I started hearing about it late 2019. It started to effect pricing and availability on some of our disposables and other products we sold. We had a few conversations about how crazy it was getting in China but none of us expected it to come our direction the way it has.” — Kyler Roney

“I first heard about COVID at school. Kids were all like, ‘Oh, it’s not worse than the flu. It’s probably not that big of a deal.’ But people were dying! It really felt like something different.”
— Margaret Stewart

 

On March 11 Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. What do you recall of that announcement and cancellations after?

“When we heard about Ruby Gobert, everything became serious. All of a sudden, it seemed like the world became nervous including family members and employees. I remember walking into the office the next day, and some people were laughing about it, and others were noticeably nervous. One employee was so concerned that their lower lip was shaking as they discussed with me the idea of working from home.” — Ed Axley

“I didn’t care so much about the NBA, but I knew that if they were shutting down professional sports it would ultimately shut college and high school sports. This would suck for my seniors at the high school and for my daughter at BYU.” — Bruce Tucker

“The biggest thing I remember about the day Rudy Gobert tested positive was that it resulted in the first event cancellations I knew of. I feel like this is what really made me recognize that COVID was going to significantly impact our way of life more than I had originally anticipated. Because we run a business in the commercial recreation industry, canceling the NBA and college basketball seasons hit close to home and I had the realization that we may have to follow suit.” — Christian Brinton

“I remember being frustrated and thinking it was overkill and an over reaction.” — Kyler Roney

“I thought it would shut down for a week or so, then go back to normal. I remember talking with my family about it and how shocked everyone was. I had two sisters that went into labor just after that announcement was made (delivering their babies March 12 and 14) and they were worried about the unknowns at the hospital and how COVID could affect a newborn.” — Brooke Gunther

What do you recall feeling when schools and other organizations suspended public gatherings?

“When it first started, I thought it would last a year or so. It has felt like an eternity, though. And when everything got canceled it felt weird because you really couldn’t do anything. I had no idea what do to. I missed my friends, so we FaceTimed. And on my birthday, my grandparents came and talked to us in their car while we sat on the driveway. It felt weird not celebrating together, and it felt weird not hugging them. I was expecting to have a COVID-free birthday. No such luck! But even when I felt sad, I felt happy because we were helping people by canceling everything. Plus, I got to be a couch potato — that’s always a good time.” — Margaret Stewart

“My initial feeling was disappointment. I have kids who play sports and their seasons were canceled or cut short. We had activities planned for church and other organizations that were canceled as well.” — Jared Silverio

“Our students have shown amazing grit as they have so willingly adapted to the conditions and situations they have been through for the past nine months. They have had to learn from home; they have had to learn from home one day and school the next; they know what an LMS (learning management system) is; they wear masks everywhere they go; they wash hands; they learn while quarantining or while in isolation; and they have learned how to help and support each other.” — Sara Matis

“I think the biggest thing I felt when I heard church and schools were going to transition to be home-based was increased uncertainty about what the future really held. I feel like before COVID the term ‘for the foreseeable future’ meant three to six months. COVID seems to have reduced that time frame to days or even hours. I have never seen such dramatic changes to the operations of churches, schools, and businesses in my lifetime. We have altered our business operations at Provo Beach more in the past nine months than we had in the previous 10 years. I was personally probably either a little overly optimistic, or in denial about how long it would last. I thought it would last a few months, but I did not think that 9 months in we would still be wondering how long it will last.” — Christian Brinton

On March 18, the Wasatch Front felt an earthquake. Memories of the shaky morning?

“I did not feel that earthquake in Provo but I remember our little yorkie puppy was going crazy that morning. My husband’s work in West Jordan continued to feel aftershocks for days after the quake. It did a lot more damage there than in Utah County. The timing of the quake was hard on everyone in Utah when things felt so uncertain. ” — Amber Duffin

“I had left at 4 a.m. for a long bike ride. I was heading south trying to make the 70-mile round trip to my home that was going to be on the Utah Valley Parade of Homes. While I was on the bike, my wife called and asked where I was, and said, ‘I think we just had an earthquake.’ Luckily, I was on my way home. I was a little nervous because most of my kids felt it and woke up from it. As the day went on we checked all our relations, projects, and clients to make sure they were doing well. My father in Florida called after hearing about it on the news and wanted to make sure were fine. Many of our subcontractors decided not to work that day and spend it with their families. On one job site alone, we had more than 20 workers not show up.” — Ed Axley

“That felt totally unfair! Definitely a wake-up call to get an earthquake kit together and evaluate our preparedness in all areas. I remember asking ‘Do we need all the signs of the Second Coming this week?’ It sure felt like the end of the world.” — Tracey Christensen

“It was really weird. I was at work and we shut down and sent everyone home. My partner is from California and had lived through a few quakes. We had heard there was a larger one coming. I remember texting my family and we went into emergency prep mode. We had most ever thing ready but just filled up a lot of gas cans and made sure generators were ready to go. It felt like I was living ‘Red Dawn.’” — Bruce Tucker

“I slept through the earthquake. I was probably pretty tired that day and in the middle of a great dream. COVID didn’t exist in my dream, that’s for sure.” — Margaret Stewart

 

How did COVID affect summer plans?

“My husband and I were married in July, so planning a wedding during a pandemic came with many challenges. Wedding planning is stressful enough but when you add the ever-changing guidelines and limited gatherings it made things very difficult. I was grateful for my mother and mother-in-law who were able to roll with the punches after every new challenge. I couldn’t have done it without them and the patience of my husband through everything. We had an outdoor ceremony and reception and tried to make it feel as ‘normal’ as possible. The day was truly perfect and I wouldn’t change anything about it, pandemic or not!.” — Brinley Bodtcher

“It really worried us about having our baby. By the summer we knew we were going to be having a boy, and we were so excited! But we were also really nervous because we kept hearing rumors that visitors wouldn’t be allowed in the hospital, and we didn’t know if babies could get the virus. We tried to be really careful because we also had no idea how it could affect a pregnant person. ”
— Talmage Gunther

“Beside having to cancel our trip to Europe, this summer was super fun. In March when I knew sports were canceled, I bought a fishing boat and we have had so much fun spending time as a family fishing all the great lakes and reservoirs in the state. We have become more of a fishing family. We named the boat, made my wife the admiral, me the captain and my boys the mates. We decided to focus on spending time together and in the outdoors away from people.” — Bruce Tucker

“We made the decision to reschedule the Parade of Homes for July 23-Aug 8, with our Virtual Parade of Homes ending Aug 22. It turned out to be a successful and safe event with 27,000 attendees over the course of the event, with thousands more viewing our virtual parade around the nation. We were very fortunate to pull off such a safe and traditional event in our valley at that time. My time was wrapped up in the Parade of Homes all summer, and school started back up when the Parade ended.” — Amber Duffin

“We started loosening up a bit — but not too much. I was forced to play outside and my head got pretty sweaty. Our trip to Disneyland got canceled which was a big disappointment. I’m tall enough for all the rides now!” — Margaret Stewart

 

How has 2020 adjusted your employment?

“We totally closed down for the month of April. We had to reschedule our current brides’ alteration appointments, but everyone was so understanding. We reopened in May on a very limited basis — one bride with two guests max at a time in our store. We are currently at three brides at a time max, and that has definitely affected our business. But the good news is there are still weddings and there is still love! I wondered when some of the churches closed down if that would end weddings for a little while. But the families have adjusted and I’ve seen them have COVID-aware celebrations.”  — Stephanie Vincent

“Our company has about 40 percent less employees and we have had to find ways to get more efficient. We had to close a couple of our locations but are launching a new meal prep service focusing on quality food for a healthy lifestyle next month — so watch for that!” — Kyler Roney

“We have adjusted operations at Provo Beach multiple times. It has impacted revenue and it has also caused us to get creative in how we take care of our guests. We had some work-from-home time, but our business is so physical in nature that there was only so much we could do remotely so we had to get creative. It has put some of our plans on pause as well.” — Christian Brinton

“At Central Bank, we had many employees start working from home. If they could work and be efficient at home, that’s what they did. The offices (branches) began rotating workers to work from home so that if someone was exposed to COVID-19, they could go home and the employees that were home could take their place in the office. Employees who were considered high risk due to age or health concerns were able to work from home.” — Jared Silverio

 

What was your most stressful moment from 2020?

“For me personally, it was during April when the SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) kicked off. As the manager for the SBA Department at Central Bank, I was heavily involved in providing these loans to our customers, as well as staying up to date on the constantly changing information of the program and relaying that information to the other employees who were assisting with these loans. I was extremely proud of the way our entire bank came together to get these loans completed quickly so that we could help so many of our customers during this difficult time with their business. We had employees in every office and every department chipping in to help out with these PPP loans. It was the definition of a team effort.” — Jared Silverio

“Preparing for the baby was very stressful, and I couldn’t have gotten through it alone. My wife and I felt great support from both of our families and our friends. Fall Semester at BYU has also been very stressful trying to juggle spending quality time with my wife Brooke, my son Drew, school, football,  church and social things. We got through it and we are still getting through it by trying our best, working hard, and sacrificing for each other. We’ve learned to be resourceful in finding ways to help each other out and solve problems.” — Talmage Gunther

“The most stressful moment was when my mother passed away a week or two before everything closed down. I got through this by connecting with family and going through the grieving process. COVID also actually helped take my mind off of it. With regards to COVID, it was stressful anytime business restrictions changed causing us to change business operations and limit our offerings. I have gotten through these times by making the necessary adjustments and believing we would make it through. Closing the facility for the first time was stressful. I remember being in the facility at our normal opening time and not having the lights and noise of the facility (such as our arcade games, our TVs, our music). It made me a little emotional. I got through it by doing my best to focus on what we could control, not worrying about what we couldn’t, and trying to see the best in the situation. Also, limiting my exposure to news and social media has helped me manage the anxiety I was starting to feel by helping me not think about things I could not control. The social unrest, name-calling, and even hatred has been stressful. It has seemed like our nation has struggled to have calm civil discourse regarding real issues, which has caused many to go quiet out of a fear of being slammed rather than speaking up and helping us understand. I have gotten through this by limiting my time on social media and choosing to be kind, gentle and loving others.” — Christian Brinton

“Final exams after online classes were a nightmare. It took me a long time to get back into the groove, and so when finals came, I was behind. I had to do a lot of catch-up work, but in the end I succeeded in my classes.” — Bonny Skarstedt

 

What did you learn in 2020?

“I learned that I can adapt to change as it comes my way. No matter what gets thrown my way, I know I need to keep going. I don’t doubt myself. I have learned to ask myself, ‘What have I learned from this? What tools can I use to adapt and still be successful?’ I have learned more about the value of teamwork and creating success together.” — Amber Duffin

“We need people. We are created to be connected. We are adaptable and resilient. God is in charge. We can attempt to control things, but it’s an illusion.” — Tracey Christensen

“Our students are the magic. They demonstrate the qualities we attempt to instill as educators and parents each day. They are creative problem-solvers, innovative thinkers, dedicated learners and caring citizens. Our students are learning — right alongside their teachers — innovative ways to learn a concept through blended learning and show their mastery through so many more avenues than just the paper-and-pencil assessments that have been used so often in the past.” — Sara Matis

“I learned that I can adjust to situations.  A lot of things changed.  We all had to adjust, but we all did it and we are better for it.” — Stephanie Vincent

“I learned and continue to learn how to say ‘no’ to clients and employees. We had to be brutally honest with employees this year, even though most buckled down with us and sacrificed time or money. We pulled together as a team and will be stronger for it.” — Kyler Roney

 

What do you expect from 2021?

“I expect the year to be more hopeful for us all. I expect our world will be in a better place through scientific advancements. I expect people will approach situations more cautiously, but not fearfully. I expect and hope for a healthy and happy 2021 for everyone. I expect and hope the world to be more kind and understanding of each other.” — Amber Duffin

“I’ll hope for the best and prepare for the worst. I don’t think our best interest is being considered by all in power, so I expect we will have some challenging days ahead.” — Tracey Christensen

“COVID will lighten up a bit, because I heard the vaccines are coming. Thank you, scientists! I’ll also be turning 11 and going into sixth grade. Sixth grade is the year before middle school, and it’s a step closer to getting my braces off.” — Margaret Stewart

“My expectations for 2020 are to love and learn. Whatever happens, I know we can get through it and do so with a smile. I hope for things to ‘go back to normal’ (whatever ‘normal’ really means), but I am confident whatever does happen will be for our long-term benefit to help us become who we are meant to be.”  — Talmage Gunther

“We are open for business and will continue to be. Come and see us and have an amazing experience like so many of our customers currently are. If you don’t feel comfortable coming in, order our meal prep, DoorDash, or hit one of our drive thrus! We will continue to make fantastic food and provide an exceptional experience for you!” — Kyler Roney

“If I’ve learned anything this year, it is that no one knows what the future holds. I fully expect 2021 to have more surprises, good and bad, but I know it will be OK.” — Bonny Skarstedt

 

How will lessons learned in 2020 affect your future?

“I’m going to enjoy living in the moments more. I’ve rushed through different events in life that I wish I could have enjoyed more. I’m going to be happy with the way life is now, because we don’t know what it will look like in a couple of years.” — Brooke Gunther

“I’ll continue to buy extra toilet paper, masks and food forever! The year supply I had just didn’t cut it. I’ve got to have better options.” — Stephanie Vincent

“It makes you think about what really matters. I’ve asked myself many times this year, ‘If it all ended tomorrow, what would you be remembered for?’ This year has given me a different perspective.” — Bruce Tucker

“I’m going to be more careful — even when Covid is over! I want to be prepared for the next pandemic, if it ever happens. Every night I pray for people who are fighting COVID.”
— Margaret Stewart

“I hope this year will drive me to remember kindness, hope and that life is good even when we face challenges. I want to continue focusing on spending quality time with those who matter most to me.” — Christian Brinton

 

 

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Greg Bennett

Greg Bennett is an editor and writer with Bennett Communications. His primary responsibilities are with Utah Valley Magazine and the company's custom publications division. He's the father of four children and has been married to his wife, Adria, for 19 years. Contact Greg at greg.utahvalley360@gmail.com.

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