Soup, suspense, and the significance of everyday things | Letter from your editor

How was your week, Jersey?

If you spend any time on Facebook, you know its On This Day history feature can be a welcome reminder of good times. It can also be triggering. Former friends, exes, colleagues from that one crappy workplace, and family members who’ve passed away all reappear each year on cue, unless you tell the algorithm to stop.

This week’s On This Day offerings have been like watching a suspense movie you’ve seen before, where you know a danger is on the way but the characters onscreen don’t — they just get on with things.

This week last year was the last one of The Before — when we knew “the coronavirus” was out there, but no reason to panic. Just get on with things.

On Wednesday, March 4, state health officials announced the first identified case of COVID-19. Until I read this affecting look back at the year by our Matt Arco and Brent Johnson, I’d forgotten that Gov. Murphy was recovering from surgery to remove a cancerous tumor on his kidney at the time.

On Thursday, March 5, I finished my work day in Woodbridge, headed over to New Brunswick and bought my son dinner after his day of classes. I took home some leftovers that filled the car with the scent of lemongrass and cilantro all the way back down the Turnpike. It would be the last meal I ate in a public place for about seven months.

On March 10, the first death: John Brennan, 69, from Bergen County, became the first of more than 23,000 New Jersey residents to die from coronavirus-related illnesses.

Things happened quickly after that, and by the following Friday, much of the state was shut down. The governor’s daily coronavirus news briefings began, and my colleagues at NJ.com have reported on every one since.

Every day on our website, in your email and on your phones, our journalists provide the daily coverage you expect and which your subscriptions support. We’re grateful to all of you who have joined our community of subscribers so far. Join us today.

Over the past year, people disappeared from our lives, figuratively and literally: So vast, so deep was the pandemic’s path through our state that the number of deaths here rose by 32%. We’ll continue to tell their stories, with your support.

Spend a few minutes with Matt and Brent’s look back at the last year, and tell me: What were you doing, this time last year?

In other news this week: bringing Black history into the classroom, Rowan University is making plans, and shots for everybody:

  • STUDENT-LED EFFORT: One of the state’s largest school districts will add an African-American studies curriculum and make it part of graduation requirements — and it’s thanks to the efforts of a group of students. It’s a story of persistence you won’t want to miss.
  • FRICKIN’ LASER BEAMS: Six Flags Great Adventure announced it will hold drive-in laser light shows in the parking lot of the theme park complex in Jackson. The 30-minute shows, which will also feature music and other special effects, are priced per person. All the details are here.
  • BACK TO CAMPUS: Rowan University in Glassboro is planning on an in-person semester next fall, with all campus facilities — including residence halls — open, officials say. Keep your fingers crossed for more announcements like this in the next few weeks.
  • LET’S DO SHOTS: As predicted, the number of available vaccine doses continues to increase quickly — many more people are now eligible, including teachers and day care workers. And places like CVS are adding new locations and appointment slots all the time. Have you nailed down a spot?
  • THE LUCAS BROTHERS SHINE: If you caught the glorious mess that was the Golden Globes telecast, you know actor Daniel Kaluuya won a supporting actor nod for his performance in “Judas and the Black Messiah.” Newark’s Kenny and Keith Lucas co-wrote and produced the film.

Finally this week, if the words “beyond the Palace/ hemi-powered drones scream down the boulevard” bring this face to mind, read this exclusive story on how the Palace Amusements’ original Tillie mural is now rotting in a shed near the boardwalk.

In the can’t-miss video, our Natalie Paterson brings this beloved Asbury Park icon to life. It’s the kind of work only NJ.com can bring you, and it’s no wonder major Bruce Springsteen fan communities like Backstreets.com have taken notice.

That’s all for now. Have a great week, and keep it Jersey, my friends.

P.S.: Want to live like an NFL quarterback?

Amy Z. Quinn is NJ.com’s Audience Editor, Newsletters and Briefings. To get a Letter From Your Editor every Saturday, add your email here.

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