Essential Enemy
by Victor Johnson

An oral history of the day everything changed

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Garrett M. Graff:

“In the end, as history will record, the story that would have been the biggest news on Wednesday, March 11–the story that in normal times might have been the biggest headline of the month–will hardly register in America’s memory: That morning, at 11:06 am, a judge sentenced Hollywood super-producer turned super-predator Harvey Weinstein to 23 years in prison on sexual assault charges.

Yet within 12 hours, the staggering fact that Weinstein–the force behind an entire generation of movie classics from Shakespeare in Love to Pulp Fiction–might very well spend the rest of his life in prison turned out not only not to be the biggest story of the day, it wasn’t even the biggest Hollywood story of the day.

Instead, Wednesday, March 11, the 71st day of 2020, proved to be unlike any other in American history–the pivot point on which weeks of winter unease about the looming novel coronavirus turned in a matter of hours into a sudden, wrenching, nation-altering halt to daily life and routine. Just a day earlier, Americans across much of the country were still going into the office, meeting friends for drinks, and shaking hands in meetings. That morning, the number of coronavirus cases in the US crossed the 1,000 mark, up 10-fold from the prior week. Only 29 Americans had died.”

Up until today I had no idea that Weinstein had been sentenced to prison. Good.