As we write this, on May 1, 2020, we’re 7 weeks into a global lockdown. Quarantine. Call it what you will. This wasn’t the way the year was supposed to go. It was supposed to get warmer, winter was supposed to give way to spring, buds were going to start peeking out from tree branches and nipples from under shirts. Life was going to start again.

We got a little foretaste of it on March 9 — a preview of the spring on a day when, improbably, the sun came out and the temperature soared into the 70s.

It seemed like all of New York City came out into the streets and parks to breathe deep of the suddenly temperate air. There must have been a few thousand people in Washington Square Park, seated side by side on the grass, still damp and slightly muddy from the previous night’s rain.

The feeling in the air was one of amity and comity, of tolerance and openness, of warmth of every kind.

So when our group’s eager members gathered on the lawn, first in a tight little group–

–and then in a sprawling one numbering 20 or more, no one gave us a second look (much less a hostile one). No one told us to put our tops back on or bothered us in any way.

And we in turn were tolerant when approached by neighborhood characters like the Free Hugs man.

Who doesn’t want a hug sometimes?

Some of our long-time members showed up, eager to throw off the shackles of winter hibernation.

And some first-timers joined us too, taking a long, late lunch from office jobs or playing hooky from their last classes of the day.

How could office work or homework compete with a chance to feel the sun on your skin?

We took these photos 54 days ago and have been holding onto them ever since. When we took them, we had no idea that this would be our one and only event for the next two months — or three months or six months or maybe all year. Who could possibly have imagined what was coming just a few days later?

We almost didn’t want to post them — as if by holding them back, we were keeping a little bit of that day alive, as if we could avoid facing the fact that our larder is now empty: no more photos waiting to be posted, no more events to tell you about.

Oh, we’re still optimistic that things will get better before the summer comes and goes. But even if they do — even if a small set of us cautiously decides to gather in the warmth of June or July or August, sitting 6 feet apart from one another in some quiet corner of Central Park — it won’t be the same. Not thousands of people sharing a lawn and a beautiful day, careless and free, without masks, without fear, without the specter of sickness and death. Freedom is still important, and so is equality, and we’ll continue to fight for both. But it’ll be a while before anyone will feel easy and comfortable again.

It’s a new world, and we will learn how to navigate it. But for now, we share with you this moment of bliss, this moment Before.

We’re glad so many of you were able to share it with us in person, and we’re glad so many more of you will share it with us now in memory.