U.S.-Canada Border Separates Couple During Pandemic

Longtime couple Mert LaBounty and Tammy Yonkers never met an obstacle as large as the pandemic-related U.S.-Canada border closure.

Since March 20 of last year, the couple have had to rely on technology to communicate. This reached a breaking point for LaBounty, which he recounted.

“I got into this wicked depression where all I could see was her on the computer,” he said. “I just took my computer [one day], just smashed [it] and then I had a breakdown.”

The Buffalo resident, 53, sought help immediately, while his Canada-bound girlfriend, 54, tried to look out for him afar.

LaBounty stands outside during a protest in Buffalo’s Pat Sole Park last month on the U.S.-Canada border closure (Courtesy: Mert LaBounty)

“I felt like I could not really reach him because he started taking out his his experience on me,” she said.

While working as a contractor in Buffalo and as a nurse in Fort Erie, Ontario, the two took part in protests last month on opposite sides of the border. They continue to fight for its reopening.

Currently, fully vaccinated Americans are allowed into Canada for nonessential travel, but the same permission is not extended to Canadians coming into America.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced yesterday an extension on border restrictions until at least September 21.

“To minimize the spread of #COVID19, including the Delta variant, the United States is extending restrictions on non-essential travel at our land and ferry crossings with Canada and Mexico through September 21, while continuing to ensure the flow of essential trade and travel,” the Department of Homeland Security said via Twitter. “In coordination with public health and medical experts, DHS continues working closely with its partners across the United States and internationally to determine how to safely and sustainably resume normal travel.”

“I am just very emotional, very angry,” said Yonkers. “I have had enough, it has been so hard.”

Via text message, LaBounty weighed in on the latest developments in the border closure.

“I cannot believe they did not open the border!” he said. “This is so upsetting, they are killing me waiting and waiting.”

“No Woman Ever Matched Up”

Being fully vaccinated, LaBounty is planning on visiting Yonkers in Fort Erie once his latest home kitchen project is completed. The couple is planning on moving in together, which they have worked towards since they reconciled after a years-long separation.

The two first met when Mert was going to college 25 years ago in Canton, New York. They were initially together for five months, and reconnected over 20 years later around the time of Yonkers’ 50th birthday.

Yonkers stands on Canadian side of U.S.-Canada border last month protesting its closure (Courtesy: Mert LaBounty)

“It is like a Romeo and Juliet-type story,” said Yonkers.

Knowing that she lived in Canada, LaBounty dropped his construction career in Lake George, NY to moved closer to her in Buffalo. He started working as a contractor on different homes in the area, which was a booming business for him during the pandemic.

Still, his success could not keep him happy the way Yonkers did.

“No woman ever matched up there,” he said.

They traveled back and forth to visit each other before the border closure took effect on March 20, 2020.

“When I gave her a kiss goodbye, I said, ‘I am not going to shave, or cut my hair until I see you again.'” he said.

Indeed, he kept up this look until several months went by and he could not take it anymore.

LaBounty with his pandemic look holds up a photo of how he looked pre-pandemic with Yonkers (Courtesy: Mert LaBounty)

Although he broke up with her briefly during his depression, LaBounty maintains that Yonkers is the one for him.

“Sure it would be easier, I could go find somebody else,” he said, “but Tammy has been my soul mate since ’96.”

Published by Mallika Rao

Freelance Writer, Blogger

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