Nightly howl unites community amid COVID-19 crisis

Every night, as the clocks chime eight across Marin County, residents open their doors and howl together as a way to stay connected with neighbors, friends, and family. Citizens started the howl to appreciate healthcare and grocery store workers, first responders, mail carriers, and so many more who put themselves in danger during this global pandemic.

The nightly howl originated in neighborhoods in Mill Valley, who were inspired by videos of people in Spain applauding healthcare workers. Ella Clark, a freshman at Tamalpais High School, remembers first hearing about the howl on Mar. 23. Neighborhood residents started the howl through Nextdoor, an app designed to update people on current events in their neighborhoods. Posts encouraging people to howl started appearing on every neighborhood’s feed. 

Clark now howls with her friends and family every night. “I think the idea behind it is the most important thing; we need to remember that we’re saying thank you to all the medical workers and doctors and everyone who’s putting themselves in the face of danger to help those who are dealing with COVID-19,” Clark said.

we need to remember that we’re saying thank you to all the medical workers and doctors and everyone who’s putting themselves in the face of danger to help those who are dealing with COVID-19,

— Ella Clark

Soon the howl spread to many neighborhoods. A few days following the first howl in Mill Valley, it was heard in the San Anselmo-Fairfax area.

Stephanie Smith, a resident of San Anselmo also started howling because of the posts on Nextdoor.  “I first heard about it through Nextdoor: A gentleman posted about how his brother started a nightly solidarity howl in Mill Valley and sure enough, a few days after reading it, San Anselmo started howling too,” Smith said.

Slips of paper detailing why and when to howl were put in mailboxes and scattered on the street.

“In times of crisis it’s cool to see how we come together; in New York people clap, and here we howl, which I think is really fun,” said Lyla Johnston, a Drake sophomore and San Anselmo resident.

Although the howl initially started in Mill Valley to honor healthcare workers, it has served as a way to bring our community together during these uncertain times. The act of joining together and howling with people you may not know, even from the confinement of your backyard, has unified our community and given community members something to look forward to while they wait for the shelter in place to be lifted.

“In our household (two people and a dog) we like the nightly howling. We think it brings with it a feeling of community, and a reminder that we are all in this together that helps carry us through the next day. I ring a loud wind chime instead of howling, and we might favor clapping instead of howling, but if howling is what we’ve got, we’ll take it!” San Anselmo resident Dale Hillard said.

I did expect people to show appreciation, but it did not occur to me that this would be one of the ways we do it.  I initially thought it was fun and still do love to hear it.  I hope it grows in numbers,” said Adam Smith, a resident of San Anselmo.

The howl has even reached as far west as Lagunitas, according to Forest Knolls resident Karen Fry. The fact that this howl spans almost 20 miles shows just how supportive our Marin County community is. “Every night I hear it here from down the road,” Fry said.

In times of crisis, people either band together or fall apart. Citizens have shown through this nightly howl that our community is stronger than ever. Even though we must maintain social distancing laws, we can still show our support for each other and the essential workers who are saving those afflicted by COVID-19.