Since the coronavirus pandemic reached Southwestern Pennsylvania in March 2020, the Observer-Reporter’s editorial department has mostly worked from home.

Sure there were the occasional newsroom drop-ins by reporters to write and file a story, or by editors to check mail or phone messages. For the most part, however, our staff stayed connected on a daily Zoom meeting.

Those meetings were all well and good, but I was ready for the real thing.

Recently, the O-R’s editorial staff returned to working in-person. Toiling at a newspaper bonds people more readily than most careers. There’s something about a group of people coming together to put out a publication that intrinsically inspires camaraderie.

Maybe it’s the long, strange hours or the fact that our profession is probably in the most serious peril it has ever been in, but journalists stick together.

It’s been nice to be in the same room – albeit socially distanced and wearing masks – with the incredible professionals I’m proud to call co-workers.

We are a smaller staff than ever now, but we are still mighty. It’s impossible to completely get the essence of this group of people via Zoom. You have to be in their physical presence to fully appreciate them.

Masked or not, getting the chance to be in the same room with these people again is a pretty good feeling.

A return to normal before COVID-19 completely rearranged our existence may never come. If it does come to pass that our memories will all begin with a disclaimer that “this happened before the coronavirus,” there are certain things I am excited to create new memories around.

One of my favorite pastimes is to attend Pittsburgh Pirates and Steelers games in person. I didn’t make a Steelers game last season, but I’ve been to PNC Park a couple times already this spring and, while it feels amazing to be back, it is certainly strange.

Sadly, die-hard Pirates fans like myself aren’t necessarily unaccustomed to what a socially distanced PNC Park looks and feels like. Wearing a mask while sitting apart from other Pirates fans isn’t ideal. I’d be lying, though, if I implied that I didn’t sit with a lump in my throat for portions of the games I’ve attended this year.

Hopefully the Pirates can build upon their decent start to this season and we can all begin to inch closer to normal with more fans in the house at PNC Park.

I feel the same way about attending concerts, going to restaurants and spending time with family and friends on vacation – basically anything that requires human contact.

And that’s where this edition of South Hills Living comes in. This issue is chock full of stories outlining ways we can get together safely and begin to regain that pre-COVID-19 connection.

Eleanor Bailey’s piece for this edition on the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden highlights a perfect example of that type of activity. It’s hard to imagine how strolling the garden’s grounds this spring and summer could provide a safer and more satisfying experience.

The Pittsburgh Botanic Garden is an under appreciated gem in Southwestern Pennsylvania and more people should take the time to experience it.

John Sacco also wrote two stories for this issue that are sure to be helpful for readers as we continue to safely emerge from our quarantine. Sacco’s story outlining the protocols many area pools are taking to safely open for this season had me dreaming about sitting poolside and enjoying some much needed sunshine.

Sacco also wrote a story providing tips for first-time mothers to help them navigate their initial forays into parenthood. I’m sure many among us are ready to get back to shopping without coronavirus protocols. Hopefully that time will come soon.

As always, we at the Observer-Reporter appreciate you taking the time to read this publication. Here’s hoping we will be seeing you all out in the community again very soon.

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