It starts with a few people letting loose with some tentative yelps. Then neighbors emerge from their homes and join, forming a roiling chorus of howls and screams that pierces the twilight to end another day’s monotonous forced isolation.
From California to Colorado to Georgia and upstate New York, Americans are taking a moment each night at 8 p.m. to howl in a quickly spreading ritual that has become a wrenching response of a society cut off from one another by the coronavirus pandemic.
They howl to thank the nation’s health care workers and first responders for their selfless sacrifices, much like the balcony applause and singing in Italy and Spain. Others do it to reduce their pain, isolation and frustration. Some have other reasons, such as to show support for the homeless.
The nightly howl is a primal affirmation that provides a moment’s bright spot each evening by declaring, collectively: We shall prevail, said Dr. Scott Cypers, director of Stress and Anxiety programs at the Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Depression Center at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. It’s a way to take back some of the control that the pandemic-forced social isolation has forced everyone to give up, Cypers said.