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When Clapping Creates Community

CECILY MAURAN, HOST: New York is known for being a noisy city. It’s been quieter over the last month — except for one specific time every day. Ciara Long found out how applauding healthcare workers is helping New Yorkers find community. CIARA LONG, BYLINE: Every night at 7, Brooklyn-based filmmaker Christian Svanes-Kolding heads out to his building’s stoop with his partner, Adriana. She calls out to a neighbor. Svanes-Kolding says the noise-making makes them feel a little less isolated. CHRISTIAN SVANES-KOLDING: When you hear the applause coming from other blocks, one definitely gets this sense that this is more than just our neighborhood. That it’s bigger than just us. And that helps me feel connected to the city as a whole. LONG: It happens all over the city. Just before 7PM, people lean out of their windows armed with saucepans, wooden spoons, and anything else they can use to make noise. For Eli Groenendel, an educational consultant in the Upper West Side, it’s a chance to blow off some steam. ELI GROENENDEL: I do it every day and I’m being a little bit more creative - you know, now I have the cowbells. Next thing I realized I have a bongo so I'm gonna try to do that next time. LONG: Groenendel has an autoimmune disease, so these days she rarely leaves her apartment. GROENENDEL: I’m stuck here all day long. And feeling like a part of a bigger community has meant a lot to me. It was almost like a healing experience LONG: James Sullivan is a journalist and author of Which Side Are you On? 20th Century American History in 100 Protest Songs. He says the nightly noise-making in the city reminds him of the collective energy of crowds singing protest songs. JAMES SULLIVAN: It’s sort of an outlet for relief, or an expression of exasperation that we’re all stuck in this situation together but apart. It’s an opportunity to come together safely and make some noise and be joyous about it. LONG: Joe Lapinski is an archivist at Trinity Church on Wall Street. He says this kind of community expression has a long history.. JOE LAPINSKI: like New Year’s Eve, this kind of thing goes back to warding off spirits and warding off bad omens, and things like that at the end of the year to kind of start fresh. LONG: Christian, the Brooklyn-based filmmaker, says it’s become an important part of his daily life.

SVANES-KOLDING: And on the one hand, we're each experiencing this alone, we're apart from each other. And this ritual allows us to acknowledge how we are experiencing it together. LONG: Especially in social isolation, New Yorkers are finding a way to be together. Ciara Long, Columbia Radio News.


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