As pandemic eases, gathering for Memorial Day a sense of normalcy for Chicagoans

Chicago News

After a year of pandemic-related lockdowns, Memorial Day was the first major holiday where Chicagoans celebrated at the beach.

While Monday’s weather brought an overcast and non-summer-like temperatures, it didn’t stop locals from coming to the Lakefront to enjoy family time, the water and the sand.

“I never leave my food. I stay on top of it,” said a grilling Jackie Hall, who arrived at the Lakefront early Monday to solidify her spot at 31st Street Beach.

She told WGN she was ready to grill up a feast that included “chicken wings, ribs, and Italian sausage.”

Hall says the holiday was the first time her family has come together since the pandemic started.

“It feels good because I’m ready to get out,” she said. “We’re keeping our distance. We have our masks on. I like cooking and being with my family. We just have love. I love that.”

Chicago resident Sarah Evans said Monday’s time at the beach was a reminder of life pre-pandemic.

“We’ve been stuck, even with school, so it’s nice for me to see my family,” Evans said. “We can all be out for once instead of being secluded in the house.”

Chicago’s 22 beaches officially opened on Friday after being closed for more than a year. Residents on Monday took advantage.

“It’s a big relief coming here,” said Chicago resident Rahul Moroney. “I almost forgot that we were inside for more than one year. This is wonderful. This is the first time my kids have been out to the beach in Chicago.”

Moroney’s six-year-old twins were out and about Monday building new memories after a tough year.

“I came to Chicago on March 9 and the lockdown started on March 11,” Moroney said. “They were all stuck for six months away from me and that was very difficult.”

Moroney’s wife and daughters then were able to fly to Chicago from India. Once they arrived, they contracted COVID-19. The kids spent their kindergarten year fully remote. But Monday’s trip to the beach has the family flying high as they begin to plan for the summer ahead.

“I’ll be very honest, my wife was skeptical whether Chicago has sand beaches and do we have to go to Florida? Moroney said. “But this is wonderful.”

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