From The Lexington Herald Leader (March 27, 2020):
Beshear warns: Kentuckians crossing into Tennessee could bring coronavirus back home
“I cannot control that Tennessee has not taken the steps that we have,” [Kentucky Gov. Andy] Beshear said. “…I need you to be strong in your pride in this state, and I need you to make sure that you don’t take someone else’s lack of action and ultimately bring it back to Kentucky to harm us.”
Fewer than three weeks ago, I was talking with my partners in the making of “Mine 21” about going to the Appalachian Studies Association conference in Lexington. COVID-19 was a growing issue, but the conference organizers were wanting to go ahead with it. We talked by FaceTime although Kelsey was in town and came to my office.
Yes, no? Are we going to do this? We talked around and around. “Mine 21” had won the Jack Spadaro Award–“The Spadaro Award is given annually to recognize the producer of the best nonfiction film or television presentation on Appalachia or its people”–and we were due to receive it at the banquet on March 13th. We REALLY wanted to go to this banquet, to get this award, to widen the audience for our film and its story. We had meetings set up with people who could help us promote the movie. We had dinners planned.
But we had to acknowledge some grim realities. Things were getting worse across the country. Harvard and Princeton had closed down and sent the students home to continue the semester online. Berea College in Kentucky had gone even further. But the organizers were still planning on running the conference. They wrote, “This afternoon, we had a spirited discussion about the implications of both cancelling and proceeding with the conference. We decided today to proceed, but it was not a unanimous decision.” We made up a list of pro’s and con’s in my office, but frankly, it was hard to know how to move forward. Let’s wait and see, we decided, until maybe March 12th?
With less than 36 hours to go, the conference was cancelled. I know that was not an easy decision.
There is an alternate reality in my heart, and it is quite vivid, where none of this happens the way that it has fallen out. Corona is serious but it does not become a pandemic. We get to go to Lexington, we meet up with some valuable contacts, “Mine 21” finds a home with a distributor. In my mind’s eye, we celebrate my visiting a distillery or two and blow the prize money on too much Bourbon. The laughter, the good fellowship, the sense of accomplishment, and yes, even the hangover, are all realities that I can almost recollect, they are so distinct.
But none of it happens. Instead, the governor of Kentucky is telling people not to go to Tennessee. It’s sensible advice. I am nodding my head in agreement. But I am also shaking my head in amazement. It is only going to get worse.