BY MARTHA QUILLIN AND THÉODEN JANES AND THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER AND THE NEWS & OBSERVER STAFF
In some ways, this is like any other North Carolina springtime.
Pollen coats cars like frosting. Choruses of spring peepers fill the air in wooded areas, while the hum of lawn mowers drones on all day in suburbia. There’s frost on the ground one morning, a heat wave two afternoons later.
But in almost every other way, the state of North Carolina looks and feels like nothing we’ve ever experienced, with the vast majority of residents hunkered down for their fourth weekend under a sweeping stay-at-home order brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
We wanted to show you how starkly different life has become here, through the eyes of more than two dozen people from a variety of callings, cultures, and corners of the state, all captured over the course of one 24-hour day.
This is Tuesday, April 14, 2020, in a North Carolina we’re still not quite used to — and one that, we hope, will return to the way it used to be before long.
For a normal person, a midnight wake-up call would be like a gunshot. But when Georgette Charles’s alarm goes off in the bedroom of her Huntersville home, she springs out of bed like it’s nothing. After all, she’s been waking at this odd hour for the past 16 years.
Charles, 52, is the supervisor of a custodial crew that cleans the federal courthouse in Charlotte on West Trade Street. Her shift starts at 2 a.m. and runs till 9, and for the past week, she’s also been doing a new job: sitting in on every criminal court hearing and scrubbing down the courtroom before the next session starts.
It’s taken her out of her routine, which has had its pros and cons. One downside? Charles likes to plan ahead. She thinks about what is supposed to happen versus what could. But in the week she has worked more closely with the judges, clerks, attorneys and IT specialists, she’s realizing how much differently the rest of the world tends to operate.
Some things, clearly, can’t be planned out.