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Ora Duffley had an Easter she would never forget while locked down in New York City

Ora Duffley: “Perhaps this time has helped us to realise what is really important.”

ORA Duffley, a former Brisbane Catholic teacher who now works at the United Nations with the Holy See mission, had spent the last three weeks in lockdown in New York City, where more than 10,000 people have died from coronavirus.

Ms Duffley said the streets of New York were “surreally quiet”.

“I try to walk a little in my neighbourhood each day, which is in the Centre of Manhattan, close to Grand Central Station, and it is striking to see these usually bustling streets, now eerily quiet and empty,” she said.

“The subway is empty, the coffee shops are shut.”

But the empty streets indicated people were following health advice to stay home, and that brought a sense of camaraderie, she said.

“Every so often New Yorkers, just like people living in cities throughout the world, open the windows of their apartments and cheer together to show collective appreciation for the work of nurses and doctors and all front line staff who are helping communities through this difficult period,” she said.

She said there was a sense that “we’re in this together, we’ll get through this together”.

The United States had recorded more than 600,000 infections and about 26,000 deaths at time of publication.

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo had said the “worst” of the virus had passed.

The state had 671 deaths on Sunday, the first time in a week that the daily death toll had dropped below 700.

Eerily quiet: The empty streets of New York City.

Ms Duffley said the infection and death figures were alarming.

“I don’t think anyone quite expected it to get as bad as it is but New York is such a densely populated metropolis, so it was likely to have a significant impact,” she said.

Even with all the death and disease, people were trying to maintain a sense of normalcy.

“Perhaps this time has helped us to realise what is really important,” Ms Duffley said.

Easter was different this year but “beautiful in its own way”, she said.

“Even though each of us were isolated and quarantined at home, we were connected from our domestic chapel and with each other through the plethora of online invitations to join in the Easter liturgy and to join with each other,” she said.

“It has been quite impressive and almost a full time job keeping up with the activity online, whether praying the rosary together on Zoom with friends in Spain and Ireland, to joining the Holy Father from Rome and tuning in for Masses here at St Patrick’s Cathedral.

“I logged in for the Maronite Masses from Sydney and with the Catholic diocese of Djibouti where I was last Easter.

“Thank God for the internet, I have not felt alone.”

She said New York in springtime was beautiful, too.

“The cherry blossom trees are blooming, daffodils and tulips have sprouted, I appreciate the nature that surrounds us,” she said.

“I think the homeless have it hard, and my heart goes out to them, as the usual sources of shelter and food are now closed, so we need to take special care to check them.”

Ms Duffley said it was a complete unknown as to when the lockdown would be lifted, though it was likely to be some time yet.

She said there remained the “pervasive American sense of ‘we can beat this, we are strong and we can get through this’”.

“With the help of God, I am confident that we can,” she said.

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