We love you, D.C.
Police are erecting fences and using concrete barricades to block off streets in downtown D.C. ahead of the presidential inauguration. About 20,000 National Guard members are filing into the city in an attempt to prevent another insurrection. And some local businesses are choosing to shut down to keep staff from being exposed to the dual risks of mob violence and COVID-19.
Many members of the D.C. community are feeling anger, shock, and sadness over the events of last week at the Capitol and anxiety about what's still to come.
Stacey Price spent the day after last week's insurrection in tears. She's the co-founder of Shop Made in DC, a chain of stores selling products crafted by local artists and makers.
"When your employees of color call you and say they don't feel safe coming to work that day, and your neighbors don't feel safe in their own city, it's just so sad," she tells DCist/WAMU. "I personally needed to do something."
After adjusting business hours and postponing deliveries to keep her employees safe, Price decided she wanted to create something positive, too. She built a website where people could submit and read online love letters to D.C. and was able to launch it within a couple of days.
Price wants Washingtonians to feel like they're getting "a virtual hug" when they're reading the submissions. She also hopes the letters will show people across the country that D.C. is more than just a government town.
"We're not just politics and government and the Capitol building," Price says. "We're a real place that bleeds."
The site has received about 50 submissions so far, Price says. Many of the early letters come from makers who supply Shop Made In DC stores. Others come from people around the country offering support to D.C. residents.
"Dear precious D.C. friends, Sending you some Colorado love to wrap around you like a hug and a shield," goes one letter signed by Cherie and Charlie.
Some of the letters are written directly to the city itself. "Hey DC, I know this relationship we're in is still new but is it okay if I admit that I kinda love you?" writes Logan Murphy. "Thanks for welcoming me, letting me wake up with you as I run along the Tidal Basin, and for allowing me to end my days with the beauty of your sunsets over the Potomac."
"I live here because my great-grandmother did, my grandmother did, and my mom did," writes Stephanie Owens. "This is home. Maybe Washington is a swamp (made so by people who fly in and out of it and never try to make it home) but D.C. is music, laughter, soul, culture, and joy. D.C. is love, plain and simple."
Like many small businesses, Shop Made in DC's four locations all took a financial hit due to last week's violence and the ensuing state of public emergency. Price closed the shops early last Tuesday and Wednesday for safety, and didn't open on Thursday at all. The shops will close again for Inauguration Day, and many deliveries have been postponed.
"When there's chaos going on in our city, people stay home," Price says. "They're watching the news, not online shopping. Like, did you buy anything last week?"
Instead of focusing solely on business, she's sorting through all the new submissions to Love Letters to D.C. She plans to keep the site open indefinitely.
This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.