At this time last year, as Snohomish County recorded what was then the first known U.S. coronavirus case, Jon Osterberg was attending a 100th birthday party with hundreds of other people, dining at the Salish Lodge with his wife and watching his grandchildren for a week.

He ended up feeling “so lucky,” he said, now that we know the virus had been silently spreading for weeks by then.

Gregg Browngoetz was not feeling so fortunate when he was cruising the Caribbean that week, mostly staying in his room as each day on the ship grew more intense: “It was frightening when the pandemic broke open.”

Osterberg and Browngoetz are among readers who shared their thoughts on what they were doing during that momentous week a year ago, and whether they’d do anything differently if they’d known of the illnesses, shutdowns and upheavals ahead.

For a reader named Mindi, the answer to the last question is heart-wrenching:

“I would have flown to my home state of New Jersey to visit my parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and my grandma. I would have loved to have seen my grandma one last time before COVID took her life in May 2020. It’s been 18 months and counting since I have hugged my parents.”


Another reader writes, “I would hug my family longer. I would understand you can grieve from so much more than loss of life.”

Others wished they had packed more life into their trips while they could: “More time on the Jet Ski, more photos of the waterfalls, another visit or two to the market.” And, for a reader whose last stretch of normalcy included singing in a packed karaoke room, “I would have scream-sung one more Kelly Clarkson song for good measure.”

But still, you found ways to cope: “I wish I embraced social-distanced camping earlier,” Lesley Jones writes. “It took a while to stop feeling paralyzed, but once I got out to nature with a tent,” things felt a bit better.

And then there are masks, which several readers said they would have worn much sooner if they’d known what we know now. One woman wonders if she had COVID-19 and unwittingly spread it when she went to the grocery store. Another who traveled to New York City writes, “We brought masks on the trip but were afraid to wear them because a woman was accosted on the subway for wearing one.”

Pharmacist Jeanette Wallace, though, reacted quickly. When King County recorded what was then the first U.S. death attributed to the virus, and cases began rising at a Kirkland long-term care facility, Wallace canceled her social plans: “I knew that it was already in the community. … Nursing homes don’t take field trips to China.” Now she’s on a vaccination team and calls it “one of the most rewarding jobs.”

For some readers, what they didn’t know ended up not hurting them. “I might not have taken that 12-hour train ride from Anchorage to Fairbanks,” writes Gay Armsden. “In the end, though, it was fine and it was fabulous.”