Sunday, April 12, 2020

What Did You Do During the Pandemic?

I                                                                                  mage by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

When your grandchildren ask you, "What did you do during the pandemic of 2020?", what will you tell them? This year is historic. I often think of it as World War III.

There are parallels with WWII. But the difference is that this war is not (yet) among countries. The enemy is invisible and much more deadly. We were under prepared for it, the whole world was.

I treasure my mother's stories of what she experienced during the war. She was raising two children under five on her own. She had trouble finding reliable childcare. So she moved in with her mother and step-father. They took care of us kids while she worked at Curtis Wright making airplanes for the military.

She was thin and able to fit in the tight quarters of the tail of the bombers, where she bucked rivets. This was a physically demanding job, as you can imagine. The transportation to and from work was on a truck with benches on the back that transported people from the city to the plant. The called it the "Cattle Car." At that time the plant was not surrounded by the city as it is now.

This was the first time they hired women for this kind of work. Women and men not able to fight worked making what the military personnel needed to fight in other countries. The men fighting required protective helmets, tall boots, uniforms, guns and ammunition. So those industries were doing well.

The homefront, back in America, had to make sacrifices. Materials needed for the military were rationed for civilians back home. Leather, steel, rubber, even some foods. The shoes for civilians were not very sturdy. Children wore through them in no time, as well as outgrew them. It was hard to keep your children shod.

Today we fight a very different kind of war. The frontline is the medical personnel, first responders, even grocery store clerks in many places. And this time we don't have nearly enough of what they need to fight successfully without losing many of them to the disease they are fighting. They sometimes have to work without adequate protective equipment . They fight not only the disease, but also exhaustion from 12-hour shifts day after day. They also fight the emotional exhaustion of having patient after patient dying on their shifts. They also fight the fear that they can easily contract the disease, as well as take the virus home to their family.

When the warriors were fighting WWII, they were fighting to keep the people back home from being attacked and to keep the country safe. These warriors are also fighting to keep the virus at bay, but it is on the homefront. They see friends and loved ones sick or dying. Their grief is heavy.

Those of us on the homefront in this war feel unable to do much to help win the war. The biggest weapon we have is staying home and washing our hands. Hardly compares, does it?

Many have started making cloth masks for civilians. While they are not totally effective, they do help slow the spread. And handwashing is the biggest thing we can do to defeat the virus from the homefront.

In Ohio, many companies have jumped in to make medical personal protective equipment in new ways. There are also labs that are working feverishly to develop treatments that may work to combat the virus and vaccines to prevent it developing in those who have not yet been infected. But all of that takes time, something we don't have. People are dying by the thousands every day.

My mother's generation made huge sacrifices at home to support the warriors on the frontline. And when we are asked to quarranteen for two months it is not as big a sacrifice. Yet we are feeling it in lots of ways.  One of the biggest ways is by loss of income for jobs deemed unessential. Most are not prepared to go without paychecks for even a week, let alone up to two months or more. And our financial support systems are not made for the number of people who are out of work all at the same time.

We also share the grief and fear. That wears us down as well. We can't be with our loved ones if they are sick or dying. We see the news and wonder when it will end.

But I listen to people who are appalled by the suspension of sports activities for months, I remind them and myself that it is saving lives. There will be sports next year if we do this right this year.

The important thing we can do now is to support each other in all the ways we can while staying at a physical distance of at least six feet. We have technology that connects in ways we never could have done before. Even if we don't have computers or smartphones, we can write letters, send cards, make phone calls. Folks sing and dance on the street to connect with neighbors. People put up encouraging signs in their windows and chalk hopeful messages on sidewalks. They tie white ribbons on their houses and trees to honor the medical and first responder personnel.

So what are you doing during the pandemic? And will you be able to tell your grandchildren how you helped us to all get through this together?

Image by John Hain from Pixabay 

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