As we begin pulling ourselves up out of this Covid 19 pandemic, with which we have lived for the past 15 months, I want to reflect on some of my own feelings and fears, lest they just get lost to time. The human mind is blessed with an uncanny ability to forget painful and frightening feelings; thus, allowing us to move on with our lives. In a very short matter of weeks, I’m finding myself sort of puzzled that I was so intensely concerned, and I don’t want it all to fade without at least a cursory recording.
I love New York City. I love the energy, the noise, the people, the lights, the huge scale of everything. And I think the seriousness of the pandemic really hit me hard when I saw pictures of the empty streets, and dark Broadway, and heard the horrifying figures of how many people were dying every day, and saw the refrigerated trucks brought in to hold the bodies. And there were the daily news clips of overcrowded hospital ICU units, and sobbing medical staff, and the governor begging for more supplies and ventilators. This got too close to home for me. And those empty streets in one of the greatest cities on earth, where I have wandered from time to time in blissful awe, haunted me.
In the very worst of it, I began to doubt that humankind was going to survive this. I remember telling someone, “Now we know what killed the dinosaurs – a virus.” I remember thinking that perhaps this is why Neanderthal became extinct. These and many “doomsday thoughts” were very real for me. And the fear of being put on a ventilator kept me awake at night. And I worried continually about family, and friends, and other clergy, and members of congregations I knew. And then I started learning of “Covid deaths” amongst people I knew – dear, wonderful people. I could not get out of my mind the line from “Rosemary’s Baby” where Mia Farrow thinks she is having a bad dream, and suddenly screams out, “This is Real!”
I tried hard to stay calm and stoic on the surface, but I was so afraid inside. I knew that a vaccine would be developed – eventually, but I was not sure how many of us would survive to see it. The fear I felt brought back childhood memories of “Take Cover” in elementary school, when we had to dive under our desks to try to simulate an atomic attack, and the films they showed us as young kids of windows being blown out and people being vaporized. I thought those terrifying memories were long put away, but Covid brought them back.
I am aware that day by day, as life begins to return to normal, these old memories are again moving to the past, the fears are fading, and the old stoicism is again working. And I think that’s the way it should be. That’s what “moving on” is all about. I guess the day will come when I will look back and say, “What was the big deal?” But I wanted to write this before that day comes, because it was a big deal – a very big deal.
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