‘This is real life and not a dream’: Somber video shows haunting sights of empty Indianapolis during coronavirus pandemic

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Monument Circle, empty.

No children at the Children’s Museum.

“Ann Dancing,” dancing all by herself.

These are just some of the images captured in a video by filmmaker Aaron Mitchell of “Capture Hour Productions,” an Indy-based video production company. Mitchell filmed the sights of some of Indy’s most well-known locations during the coronavirus pandemic.

The results are both beautiful and haunting.

Streets usually cluttered with vehicles and foot traffic are empty. Restaurants and entertainment venues typically packed with people sit idle. Stores bustling with shoppers are shuttered, their parking lots mostly vacant.

Mitchell originally posted the video on Vimeo, where it’s gotten nearly 100,000 views as of this writing. It’s simply titled “Quiet Indy.”

Restaurants closed in response to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s March 16 statewide order. A week later, the governor imposed a stay-at-home order requiring nonessential businesses to shut down.

Mitchell drove through downtown and couldn’t believe what a “ghost town” it was.

“I’ve lived in Indianapolis since 2007 and I’ve never seen it like this. I’ve always believed in documenting history, especially during the dark times, so I knew that I had to film it,” Mitchell said. “I also knew that I had to film it in a hurry because I expected Gov. Holcomb to announce a stay-at-home order any day.”

Mitchell beat the clock on the governor’s order. He filmed downtown locations on Sunday, March 22; Monday, March 23; and Tuesday, March 24. The order went into effect on Wednesday, March 25.

As of March 30, the Indiana State Department of Health reported 1,786 cases of COVID-19 in Indiana, with 804 of those cases in Marion County. So far, 35 deaths have been reported.

“Indianapolis isn’t a big, congested city like New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, so I wasn’t sure how much the coronavirus would impact us, or how soon,” Mitchell said. “But Indy was shut down at the same time as all other major cities, which is for the best, because Hoosiers have sadly had their share of coronavirus infections.”

While Mitchell conceded it was tough to see Indianapolis so somber, he’s confident Hoosiers will pull through.

“The people of Indianapolis are strong, and I have faith that we’ll get through this. I also believe that this predicament is making Hoosiers realize how much they appreciate Indy, and they’ll love it more than ever when things return to normal.”

The filmmaker called the shots of empty streets and businesses “heartbreaking.”

“Businesses that are the backbone of Indianapolis are now just abandoned buildings,” he said. “I never thought I’d see anything like this. I’ve been very active around Indianapolis since I moved here, and I purposely went to parts of the city that are known to always be full of people, and it felt surreal to not see a single soul. I have to keep reminding myself that this is real life and not a dream.”

Of all the shots, Mitchell said the one that gets to him the most is the empty JW Marriott parking lot. He’s filmed numerous events at the location, including weddings and corporate events. As an Uber driver, he’s picked up riders dozens of times.

“That lot was always overflowing with cars and people,” he noted.

“I remember being annoyed by the valets that would always approach my car like vultures, and I would always have to tell them that I’m an Uber driver,” he said. “But I appreciate the JW Marriott for all of the business that it brings to Indy, in addition to being a major part of our skyline. I’d love to be annoyed by the valets again.”

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