I lived in Connecticut but went into New York City nearly every weekday when the World Trade Center was attacked. I was home that day and watched the entire event on my TV, worrying about my many friends who lived and worked there.
In the weeks that followed, the faces of the possibly missing were plastered all over the city with achingly poignant messages pleading for information, only to turn into some of the 3,000 dead. Their pictures remained up for a number of weeks, which oddly helped heal many of us who walked by them every day. They became real to us and we could mourn the people we never knew.
Here we are now with more than 100,000 dead from the coronavirus and we are not focusing on them at all. This number is passed over, a part of the damage of the artful virus which seems to attack many aspects of being alive.
It is likely to take the better part of the year, very optimistically, to get a vaccination, according to Dr. Fauci.
I listen to scientists and facts. Politicians have their own interests, and frequently it is not the safety of humanity but the election cycle they care about, be they an incumbent or candidate. I listen to the people whose job it is to get me safely into a harbor of health and not into a polling place.
What I am not hearing — and this not only saddens me but I think also adds to the country’s collective depression — is honoring the dead. Those are nearly invisible to those of us who luckily reside in a relatively safe zone. Relatively.
It is hard enough for those who survive to mourn without the traditions that help them do so. It is hard enough that the dead died alone without comfort that loved ones can give. Imagine the help it might be to all of us to acknowledge the dead.
It is not enough to lower the flags for Memorial Day weekend. That is not the acknowledgment they all need — to be lumped into the honored dead of wars. The COVID-19 dead, all 100,000 and counting, deserve some time of thoughtful reflection, some silence where bells stop, cars stop, we stop to give thanks for their lives, express sorrow for our failings to save them. We stop to give thought for everyone willing to take a risk to help the rest of us.
Instead, we have people who don’t wear masks in public, folks who want to gather in groups in defiance of a public health lockdown. Would you tell the dead they were punked? That the doctors who are exhausted from caring for them are silly? That an artful virus is something that you have the secret element to defy?
My guess is that you don’t have a secret way to beat this virus, that you know people — 100,000 of your American brothers and sisters of all ages — are dead. You know doctors are exhausted from dealing with this.
You know these things, but because we are not in a hot spot, some have come to believe in the magical thinking that the virus stops at the border of our town, our homes, our restaurants
Yet it will not care about your magical thinking. Those who are
asymptomatic carriers and don’t know it will move through our lives, towns and restaurants dropping the virus, innocently, wherever they go. They would not if they knew they were doing that, but they are silently part of the viral world.
Even those of us who own businesses that have been suffering are sacrificing even more money to open up with compliance for our health. We owe them our compliance as well as our ability to spend money with them.
What good is the money if they have to close down again because we don’t keep them safe by masking up? They are sacrificing while we, we are merely waiting.
The real way to honor the dead is to do all we can to reflect on what it means to be alive and well now. Take the time to pray for the dead, the front line folks, to reflect on what will keep us alive and well.
One hundred thousand of our family would gladly wear a mask and stand 6 feet away if only they could be here now. Any of you?