Monday, I found myself standing with my hand over my heart doing something I hadn't done in more than a year.

I said the Pledge of Allegiance.

While I'm as patriotic as the next guy, eating amber waves of grain and all, I don't go around saying the pledge every day. But when you attend city council, county board or, sometimes, school board meetings, you find yourself with a group of people rising to their feet, hand over heart, saying ". . . and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible . . ." from time to time.

Those old COVID days

During COVID-19, I probably got out of the habit of saying the pledge.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Oh, sure, even in online meetings the government body I was covering might join together and say the pledge, all standing in unison in their respective basements or living rooms, to pledge to a flag that wasn't even there. It's as much a part of most meetings as Robert's Rules of Order, motions and seconds, and roll call votes.

But from my own living room, with my device on mute, I more likely sat silently while the elected officials and maybe a few staff members would do the whole ". . . with liberty and justice for all" bit.

I think I said the pledge along with the Winona County Board one time, and I felt a little sheepish as Sir Pickles gave me a strange look, wondering why I was talking to my laptop. I care a lot about what Sir Pickles thinks of me, apparently.

Back in the saddle

Anyway, I stood with a room full of folks and recited the pledge, hands over hearts.

For me, it's one of those milestones of returning from the pandemic, like dining in a sit-down restaurant or walking into a convenience store without a mask.

But, truth be told, some members of the Post Bulletin never stopped going places and doing the little things.

I am looking, of course, at our photographers. Hard-working photojournalists Ken, Traci, Joe and, sometime (like the letter Y as a vowel) Andy. You can't do photo assignments from your living room wearing shorts and a grubby T-shirt. Photographers have to be there, telling stories. Sometimes, more so than anything we reporters write, a picture really is worth a thousand words and tells a vivid tale.

Photo Grand Poobah Ken Klotzbach was telling me how recently he's been looking at a lot of baseball and softball stories as local teams (Go Hayfield! Go St. Charles!) advanced to state tournaments, and he's loved some of the photos that humanize the effort these players are putting forth.

"I'm looking at photos of players dumping water on their heads," Ken said. "It's nothing to do with their games, but it's hot and they're doing what they can to stay cool. It's part of the human example. We're always trying to humanize the event. That's the heart of what a feature photo is."

So, I'm glad, as a reporter, I'm able to make these personal connections again. Now, I just hope there are big crowds singing the National Anthem before these state final games.

Regional Reporter Brian Todd covers Goodhue, Wabasha, Winona and Houston counties along with some cities in Olmsted County. In the After Deadline column every Thursday, he shares behind-the-scenes tales from the newsroom.