Of all the cataclysmic events that I never thought I’d see in my lifetime, it is the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic that has turned life as we knew it upside down.
I could imagine other horrors, like a meteor wiping out a small nation, melting glaciers, turning Nevada into oceanfront property and California into part of the Pacific Ocean, even an invasion of aliens from outer space.
But it never entered my mind that we could be attacked by a sinister pathogen that could be transmitted by a sneeze or physical touch to anyone within six feet of us and instantly begin replicating itself until it cut off our airways and smothered our lungs.
Like most Americans, I considered news of a mysterious virus afflicting a place whose name I couldn’t pronounce or pinpoint on a map as a curious phenomenon that evoked sympathy but not concern. Like SARS and ebola, it was disturbing for sure, but it seemed unlikely, if not impossible, to happen here.
After all, medical advances have accomplished miracles and produced medicines and treatments for illnesses that killed people a decade ago. Surgeries like hip replacements and coronary stents have become so routine that they are simply referred to as “procedures.”
So when news of a covid outbreak in China made the news a few weeks ago, I wasn’t worried that it would cause more than a mild inconvenience. I was wrong. The world is intertwined. People are as likely to travel to China and France as they are to go to Las Vegas, and products have production lines that span the globe, with parts made in multiple countries and assembled elsewhere.
When this reality finally sank in, I fell into a stupor. At first I told myself that this shelter-in-place order would give me the time to do the many chores that I had put off forever. I didn’t. I went into a catatonic stupor, sitting on the couch staring into space. The news kept getting worse and more terrifying.
But what I’m beginning to appreciate is that those of us who have avoided looking at ourselves and what we truly valued because we felt we didn’t have the time have run out of excuses. Our world has changed forever. When we come through this (and I trust we will), I know we will take fewer things for granted and be better for it.
Stay safe everyone (and wash your hands).
From the late 1970s, Delphine Hirasuna wrote a weekly column for The Rafu Shimpo for more than 25 years. She is the author of several books, including “The Art of Gaman,” featuring objects made from scrap and found materials in the Japanese American camps during World War II. Her book was turned into an exhibition that appeared in 15 museums in the U.S. and Japan. More recently, she published a sequel called “All That Remains.” Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.