Mary Robinson, 58, hails from Huntington, New York. In 2017, the maintenance worker and horticulturalist settled in Brooklyn and now calls East New York home.
Although “Miss Mary,” as some friends call her, is a relative newcomer, she has deep roots in Brooklyn. She recalled vivid childhood memories of seeing the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge up close from Shore Road Promenade when visiting her grandparents in Brooklyn’s Fort Hamilton section.
As an essential worker, Mary was on the frontlines when the COVID-19 lockdown started. She recalled the counselors at her job worked from home while she and other custodial staff continued coming in to clean the facility.
Mary, who had served time in state prison and is HIV positive, feared for her life because of her compromised immune system. She said her job involves cleaning toilets, but management did not provide the custodial staff with masks and other protective gear, which were scarce during the early stages of the pandemic.
“Anytime people coughed or sneezed, I would say, oh my God,” she recalled. “I was listening to the news every day after work and heard about the refrigerated trucks parked behind the hospitals to store dead bodies. I was petrified.”
A coworker made masks for the two of them, which Mary believed helped to save her life at the height of the pandemic.
“Being an essential worker, I saw so much. It’s just hard to put into words. I cried a lot that first month and a half,” she recalled.
She also was concerned about her 90-yr-old mother’s well-being during the pandemic. While she self-isolated, Mary and her siblings would talk to their mother through her front door or wave to her from the front yard after the lockdown was lifted on Long Island.
Mary said she’s now a very spiritual person from an awakening that took place while she was incarcerated.
As the pandemic dragged on, Mary learned to eventually develop a positive outlook:
“I started a second business, and I quit smoking, which I recently began again due to stress,” she said. “I’ve been able to examine my life and want something better.”