The "Tremendous Silence" Of The Shutdown

May 27, 2020

Athletic fields at Kalamazoo College on May 26, 2020.
Credit Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

This is the first in a series of stories about everyday life during the COVID-19 pandemic, as told through sound.

In March, Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan University sent most of their students home because of the virus. That has meant a big change in the soundscape around Gail Griffin’s house.


“On a normal May afternoon, in my house, all I would be able to hear was the voices of students,” Griffin told WMUK.

“They’d be practicing on the field across from my house, jogging down the hill in front of my house, skateboarding in front of my house, driving like maniacs past my house, calling to each other, yelling to each other,” she said.

It’s no wonder Griffin’s life was filled with the sound of students. The retired Kalamazoo College professor lives between K and Western Michigan University.

Since the shutdown, she says, “there’s this tremendous silence around my house that I just have a terrible time getting used to.”

Did Griffin ever mind the din back when things were noisy?

“Yes! I used to complain about it all the time. Not so much the sounds of the students, but for instance the loudspeaker at the fields would sometimes play very loud metal music,” she said.

K has athletic fields and Western has a track by Griffin’s house.

“The coaches have electric, electronic whistles now that make a horrible sound. The kids driving around my corner at about 60 miles an hour used to annoy me a little bit. But, if you live near young adults that’s what you’re going to hear. And especially in this time of year when everybody would feel sort of relieved after a long winter. But yeah, I complained about it regularly. And now I want it all back again,” she said.

What sounds have come into your life, or taken on new meaning since the shutdown began? Let us know and we might produce your story for the air.

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