March 23 2020 - a significant day in the history of the UK.
Any idea why?
Well it was exactly a year ago that the British people found themselves in lockdown ... for the first time!
With COVID-19 figures rising, it was on this day last year that the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the nation and announced a 'stay at home' order. For weeks people had been 'asked' to try to keep safe, sanitise, social distance, stay indoors where possible, but now it was an order!
Mr Johnson described the pandemic as 'the biggest threat this country has faced for decades' and of course it wasn't just the UK that was affected. This new coronavirus was then, and still is, a global threat. This time last year we could not have predicted the devastation it would bring to all our lives, our economies, our culture.
To try to cut the spread of the virus, from March 23 2020 people were only allowed to go out for shopping for necessities - most shops were closed. People could leave home to seek medical care and limited daily exercise, but that was pretty much it. Where possible we were asked to work from home. No mixing of households, no meeting friends or family members who we didn't live with. No gatherings, no social events - so no church, weddings, baptisms and very limited numbers for funerals.
Over the past year the British people have now experienced quite a number of lockdowns or versions of them, depending on where you live.
Here in Jersey, our first lockdown began about a week after the 'mainland' UK's, but the experience was just as harsh. Businesses closed, hospitality closed, lives closed down, people getting sick, some dying, health services stretched to the limit of endurance.
And today, some of us are still working from home, and only now that the COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out are we beginning to see considerable decline in positive coronavirus numbers.
However, it's not all doom and gloom because when the nation, and our island, entered that first lockdown and so much stopped, what BEGAN was an outpouring of friendship, support, love and community.
People offered to do their neighbour's shopping when they went for their own. Walked dogs for those who could not get out because they were isolating. Sewed masks and scrubs, creating them out of spare material and even sheets and tablecloths, at a time when there was a world shortage of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) even for those heroes on the medical frontline, those men and women who nursed desperately ill and dying people around the clock under sometimes unbearable and stressful conditions.
Remember the 'Clap for Carers'? That weekly moment at 8pm on a Thursday? Many of us applauded, banged pots and played musical instruments on the street (socially distanced, of course) just to say 'THANK YOU' to the nurses, doctors, care workers. And then, a bit later, we clapped also to show our appreciation to all those who kept our communities working while most of us isolated at home - street cleaners, shop workers, emergency service personnel, charity workers, all those who, actually, were putting their lives on the line so that WE could stay safe.
Down the months the kindnesses rolled on. Here in Jersey, a brilliant Facebook page called 'Jersey Acts of Kindness' was created to share the love. Rainbows started appearing in windows and on the sides of roads. Thousands of rainbows, many of them drawn by children, with the word 'thank you' often embedded in the image. Here in Jersey, pebbles decorated with rainbows and flowers and 'thank you' often popped up unexpectedly.
Foodbanks provided essentials for those who couldn't cope, those who has lost their jobs or were 'furloughed' and were not earning as much as usual and so were struggling to put food on the family table. In Jersey, our foodbank was hosted by The Salvation Army. Hundreds of individuals and families donated food and other essential supplies, out of work people gave their time to sort and distribute parcels, many donated and raised funds. It was phenomenal response.
Talking of fundraisers ... we all remember Capt (later Sir) Tom Moore, who raised nearly £33million pounds for the English National Health Service, walking up and down in his garden as he approached his 100th birthday. In Jersey people also walked around their yards, did challenges at home, climbed up and down ladders, created online choirs to raise money for charity. And so it went on. And on. And on.
Throughout the year on BBC local stations we've been tracking all the 'Make a Difference' stories, and it's been wonderful. Charting first the stories of those who helped in the midst of lockdown and now, also, featuring those individuals and groups who are consistently creating opportunities for others, making life better for our world, sharing love and kindnesses every day.
Most of us have someone we could thank today, for their support during that first lockdown and, indeed, across last year.
So today, across the BBC network, there's a day-long reflection on lockdown. At 12noon today we are remembering in silence on all stations all those who have lost their lives to the coronavirus (69 people in Jersey so far) . We will broadcast features about all the wonderful people who made life better for others in the last year. It's called 'BBC Make a Difference Thank You Day'.
I've spent the last week or so listening back to interviews and features transmitted over the past 12 months, and have re-edited and re-mixed to create new audio features for broadcast on BBC Radio Jersey today. And I have been humbled and inspired by those who are, in my opinion, heroes in our midst.
Today we all have an opportunity to write and ring in to our local BBC radio station to say a personal THANK YOU to those who cared for us, who showed kindness, helped us, looked after our wellbeing even at the risk of their own.
So ... here are my personal 'Thank Yous' on this day.
Thanks to the staff at my local supermarket who opened the doors early so that those of us isolating at home could go out to do their weekly 'shop' without feeling too much stress.
Thanks to the health professionals who cared for some of my friends, many of them in intensive care, and some of them right through to the end of life!
Thanks to my work colleagues for enabling me to work from home so I could stay safe, especially as I care for an elderly parent. And thanks to my brother Tim for sharing that responsibility and just being brilliant.
Thanks to those who also 'stayed safe' to try to prevent the virus from spreading. OK, so in the autumn here in Jersey lots of people forgot the need for caution and, in fact, behaved irresponsibly which meant we went into another lockdown over Christmas and well into this year, but I want to stay positive and be grateful for those who DID stick to the rules.
Thanks to the local Contact Tracing team who worked tirelessly, especially during our Christmas/New Year lockdown when, thanks to those who partied in the autumn, our COVID-19 positive numbers rose to over 1,000 - and that's in an island population of just over 100,000! I've recently had experience of the local Contact and Trace team's efficiency and I could not be more grateful for their diligence.
And thanks to the Government of Jersey and all those who are rolling out the local COVID-19 vaccine programme which means that our numbers are now very low (just three at the time of writing this) and we can see light at the end of this very long coronavirus tunnel.
Although we know we will live with this dreadful virus for many years to come, I am confident that we will emerge eventually and although we may be battered and bruised in many respects, we will all hopefully be changed, and for the better.
Because if those kindnesses and the love and compassion and care we have felt and witnessed over this past 12 months are the legacy of lockdown ... that has to be a good thing ... right?