Today I feel like Robinson Crusoe, reading an old newspaper again and again. And, it’s this practice that opened my eyes about what’s happening around us all. Recently, I’ve read and re-read Jon Mooallem’s description of the horrendous earthquake that hit Anchorage in 1964. Registering 9.2 on the Richter Magnitude Scale, it was one of the most intense ever recorded. His essay in the March 12 New York Times helped me put the Corona/Covid 19 virus situation into perspective.
Something surprising had been shaken loose in Anchorage: a dormant capacity — even an impulse — for people to come together and care for one another that felt largely inaccessible in ordinary life.
Mooallem’s essay, adapted from a book he’s about to publish, describes stories of people and their sacrifices in the face of an unbelievable challenge. Not only had they just experienced an earthquake, it was the time of the Cold War and the fear of nuclear war. Alaska was our newest state, and its proximity to the much-feared Soviet Union was on our minds.
So, why did this essay about Alaska and an earthquake strike me? Because I’ve begun to observe how we’re all reacting and responding to the virus that’s spread throughout the world. I see comparisons in how we are responding to being quarantined to halt or slow the spread of the virus. We’re doing what we can to help one another. We’re doing our best to maintain life using online tools of all sorts. And, we’re even stepping out in our neighborhoods to applaud, sing or otherwise connect.
Thrown all together, in one unrelenting present, we are made to recognize in one another what we deny most vehemently about ourselves: In the end, it’s our vulnerability that connects us.
We’re all vulnerable as we face the uncertainty of infection by the virus. We’re all vulnerable as we hide in our homes. And, we’re all vulnerable as our lives are changed by these events. But, it’s the fact that we’re all vulnerable that ultimately does connect us. And when we’re connected, we pull together for the good of all. I hope and believe that when we once again return to our more normal lives, we’ll be more caring, we’ll be more understanding, we’ll be more accepting.