Inspired by their counterparts in cities around the world, apartment dwellers in Minneapolis' North Loop are cheering for the medical workers who are risking their lives to alleviate the human suffering caused by coronavirus.
At 7 each night, residents in several buildings step out on their balconies — some of them with pots and pans — and make noise for nurses, doctors and caregivers across the city.
The cheers last for one, two minutes at most. Kathleen Frey, who along with a friend started what has become a nightly tradition, says it's the least they can do.
"It's such a small thing," said Frey, who lives in the 730 Lofts along N. 4th Street. "You look at what they're doing, this is nothing in comparison."
Frey, who is no relation to the Minneapolis mayor, was captivated by YouTube videos of Italians and Spaniards clapping and playing music while confined to their homes. She saw similar efforts starting up in New York City and Chicago, and wanted to bring her community together, too.
With support from former WCCO anchor Mike Binkley, Frey clapped from her balcony and posted a video on social media. They publicized the first cheer for March 28, getting the word out through the property manager's newsletter and the neighborhood association, where her husband serves as president.
To Frey's surprise, people stepped out on their balconies to clap on March 27 — hours before Gov. Tim Walz's stay-at-home order took effect.
"It's growing every night," she said, with neighbors from the other lofts across the courtyard also coming out to applaud for one minute.
It's caught on across the street, too. When Jan Elftmann learned what Frey's building was doing, she organized her neighbors at the 801 Washington Lofts. The residents at the nearby Third North Apartments also became involved.
Out on their balconies, people clapped, hollered and clanged on pots and pans. Elftmann's upstairs neighbor brought out his banjo to play along. Another banged against a plastic watering can. Dogs howled and barked.
"It was just like this cacophony of amazing sounds," said Elftmann, who sets a timer for two minutes.
Elftmann had her own reasons to show gratitude. Caregivers look after her mother at an assisted living facility, which she hasn't been allowed to visit. Her next-door neighbor is a general surgeon and also, as she described it, "on the front lines."
"I'm just really aware of all the people who are out there taking care of people and putting their lives on the line," she said. "I can stand outside for two minutes and bang on a pot. That's nothing compared to what they're doing."
Since they started, Frey has learned of blocks in the suburbs doing it, too. She encouraged others to start it in their cul-de-sacs, taking videos and sharing them on social media.
In the North Loop, surrounded by her neighbors from all sides, she feels moved, she said.
"I will never look at these neighbors the same, in a good way," Frey said. "We'll always have this sense of camaraderie and community now as a result of this."
Miguel Otárola • 612-673-4753