Is it necessary to comprehend the scope of a tragedy, during a tragedy? Is our biological ability to dull the pain of the moment, a gift of survival? Years later, will we pity the naive and mislead? What does it matter? Will it save one life if we could come back in time and shake all our friends, family and others into the reality that millions will die if we don’t act?
It took two and a half hours for the Titanic to sink after hitting an iceberg in the mid Atlantic. During that time, decisions were made. Musicians were playing to ease the panic stricken passengers. Chaos triggered bad decisions. Even with a lack of life rafts to fill all of the hapless passengers, they were not filled to capacity, ultimately dooming many more souls to a miserable death in the ice cold water.
In this great pandemic of 2020, toilet paper started disappearing from shelves and online retailers around the end of February. 1 week later, the NBA announced the suspension of the 2020 season, just as the tip off of the Thunder/Jazz game after a Utah player tested positive for Covid-19. Before tip off, the players were sent to the locker room and the thousands of fans sent home with not much information. Little did they know this was the last time they would be around so many people for who knows how long. This, to me, was the defining first contact with the Pandemic. You can view the surreal moment here… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOX_CZEwVuM
That moment was the point in time when normal was gone forever for the US. At that moment, there was a single death in the US.
It’s similar to 9/11 when I watched a massive airplane pierce the north tower. I was watching the news 15 minutes after it happened after my wife called me and said, “turn the news on, a plane hit the World Trade Center, gotta go, got a meeting, talk later”, googling for updates, changing channels, wondering if this is an accident or something more nefarious.
Within 30 minutes of the NBA’s announcement, Tom Hanks and his wife reported they had tested positive for Covid-19, the NCAA season was cancelled, India cancelled their Cricket season, global travel restrictions were starting to take place and I found out my daughter in-law was being tested for the virus due to symptoms associated with Coronavirus.
The following Monday, the entire world shut down. This, to me was the second plane hitting the south tower. Now, we know. Now, the shock set’s in.
The difference from my reaction to 9/11 and the Pandemic is, the first weeks after 9/11, we weren’t shut down. The only major change was in travel, fear and confusion. I remember walking in the foothills and not seeing a single plane for a few days.
Unlike 9/11, the pandemic is a global event. Every country in the world was shutting down, closing schools, restaurants..everything non-essential. Within days, we were learning that masks were much more complicated than we ever thought. We learned new phrases, like “social distancing” and “flattening the curve”. These are the types of new things that are accepted when you are in shock.
Experts were starting to explain new models of viral spread. For every expert, there have been contrary opinions, every single one being proven wrong with every passing hour. This is the most frustrating thing for me.
What I’ve learned since is that there are 4 types of people, those that aren’t infected with the virus and spread positivity, caution and common sense, those that aren’t infected with the virus and spew rhetoric about how we are over reacting, spreading false information about how this is “just like the flu”, those that are infected and scared, and those that are dead from the virus.
I remember the first time I saw someone at my local retail store with a mask on and wondered, WTH? Then, the first time I wore a mask in a store and saw someone without a mask and wondered, WTH? Still in shock
In India, they hit people with sticks to get them off the streets. In the US, marijuana and liquor stores are still considered essential and are open. They say the curve is flattening, but, Tuesday, over 6,000 people in the US lost their lives in just one day. Everywhere you look is misinformation. Today, they say they want to “open America back up”. Meanwhile, the entire world is shut down. Hourly, we are pummeled with news that is conflicting, partisan, political, ignorant and grim. We are just characters, living in a precarious, dystopian horror movie, none of us but the “experts”, daring to admit we know the ending. And, if you do try, you will be shamed or ridiculed and insulted with citations from the experts, who are just characters as well. In fact, it seems as if the experts are the villains in all of this. Even our world’s leaders are behaving like villains.
The new normal hasn’t even started yet. Staying home is all we are asked to do. 45 Days later, today, there are 35,000 lives lost to this horribly misunderstood virus.
By now, the shock has worn off and what remains is stress, a pit in my stomach and knots in my throat when I read the stories, from 7 billion people.