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The Quiet City

Lieutenant Shakai Drigo says it usually takes him an hour to get to his corps in Bushwick, N.Y. from his home on Long Island. That commute has been slashed to 20 minutes since COVID-19 essentially shut down New York City.

“No one is on the streets,” Drigo said. “No one is on the highway. No one is driving. It feels like a Saturday in Bushwick every day. It really does. You can hear a pin drop on the street. It’s so peaceful, but I know people are suffering.”

Despite the slower pace, Drigo said the corps continues its food pantry and soup kitchen programs, but both are now “grab-and-go.” A daycare and the after-school programs closed because of COVID-19.

People show up from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the food pantry and soup kitchen are offered at separate entrances. They practice social distancing of 6 feet.

“People can just come and we greet them and we have a kind of grab-and-go system for both the soup kitchen and the food pantry,” Drigo said. “We have a table between them and us and we put the food on the table and have them go on their way.”

The corps also offers a wallet-size card with the scripture Joshua 1:9 and the phrases: “Strength, Courage, Don’t Be Discouraged. Your God is with you every step you take.”

The other officers at the corps are Drigo’s wife, Lieutenant Michelle Drigo, and Lieutenant Clifford Douglas.

Drigo said he has come full circle since he grew up in Bushwick and is now helping the area deal with COVID-19.

“I tell my wife and others every day that we’re living history,” he said. “I went to junior high in Bushwick and I grew up less than a mile from here. I used to come here all the time.

“For New York City schools to close for a month was eye-opening for me, to say the least. I think it’s the toughest school system. I’m still in shock. The whole city is different. I’m pretty interested in seeing how everything will look after this pandemic subsides.”

by Robert Mitchell

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