Three weeks ago, my biggest worries were college picks and the SAT testing in April. Things have drastically changed since then, a fact true to many in the world right now.
There is a subtle ignorance in the fact I couldn’t fathom this happening, but history has long since proven things that seem small can blow up overnight. Given my newfound amount of free time, I looked into other times the world has been blindsided by disaster.
A 2009 article from the History Channel discusses another disaster where people didn’t listen to warnings. In May 1960, a tsunami hit Hawaii and killed 61 people who ignored the warnings given six hours before the disaster. That same wave continued toward Japan, ultimately leaving 180 people dead, millions of dollars in damages and thousands homeless. It was unsettling to find the same situation repeated at a different time. Disaster can seem far away until suddenly it presents itself on your doorstep, as it did for everyone affected in Hawaii and Japan in 1960.
It can be easy to push the warnings off at first. I remember talking at the beginning of this year in my history class after reading a random article about a new respiratory virus at lunch. The discussion lasted less than a second and flew out of our heads as soon as it entered. The problem seemed far away, something that could not possibly affect us — a lack of foresight on the part of me and everyone else who ignored it.
Facts from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have effectively given us a check on our perception of safety and seeing things as the problems of other countries. When the first cases came to the United States, we could no longer stand and point fingers at countries like Italy and China. It gave us a wake-up call in the way that the problems of other countries can affect us and should be taken extremely seriously.
Now, as most of us are now at home watching newscasts and reading online and paper news sources with growing uncertainty, it feels like the apocalyptic movies we crowd theaters to watch. We see pictures of Times Square, not a shopper visible; the Louvre sits empty, Mona Lisa without a visitor; the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican lie empty, the Pope and his congregation vacant. Across the globe, empty places as if the entire world has disappeared. It is hard to find hope and see an end in a dire situation like COVID-19.
What we need to do, other than washing our hands and social distancing, is remain hopeful and unified. Countries across the world, including our own, are setting an example for how to make the most out of a bleak situation. In Mallorca, Spain, officers sing and dance to entertain the community under quarantine. An article from the British newspaper The Telegraph shares daily positive coronavirus stories of unity and hope: horses were brought to the windows of quarantined people in Teddington, London; ethanol from criminals taken by the police is being converted into disinfectant in Poland; a Catholic priest is giving no-contact confessionals in Maryland.
These are not isolated cases of random people deciding today is the day they will do something. People unite in times of crisis, even as fear grows. An example of human beauty that can be found in the chaos.
People can unite through these actions of hope, but they can also unite over giving to one another. In our communities, we have the option to be altruistic while still staying in place. An NPR article describes a community in Bend, Oregon, which stays connected through “Pandemic Partners,” a Facebook group run by Pastor Morgan Schmidt. Within the group, there is giving from one neighbor to the next. People are getting groceries for those who are immunocompromised, or making meals for the unwell with a toilet paper roll added for humor in trying times.
Communities can connect through the small acts of a hot meal and a phone call. It can make all the difference for those stuck at home, and connect a group of people for years to come after the virus is done.
People need to stay connected in times like these, where everyone has never felt more alone. There is a strength in the unity of a community, one that can overcome the worst of trials. This issue is real, our newest trial in the journey of life. The coronavirus is a pandemic that everyone should be aware of and protect themselves against. Now is not the time to fight over who is red or blue, black or white, straight or LGBTQ+, religious or atheist. It is not the time to point fingers at one person or another. It is a time to turn toward a larger enemy. We will get through this just as we always have: unified.
We may be six feet apart, but we are all neighbors, and we are always connected together.
ABIGAIL DENAULT is a junior at Somonauk High School. She can be contacted via Assistant Editor Julie Barichello at firstname.lastname@example.org.