The Year The World Shut Down

I Didn’t Sign Up For This

A Covid-19 blog entry – (combination non-fiction and fiction today)

I Didn’t Sign Up For This!

A Covid-19 blog

Chapter 5

The Year The World Shut Down

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.Marcus Aurelius, Roman Leader (121 -180)

I will never forget the shock and horror I felt the morning of September 11th, 2001. We turned on the news and watched the second tower fall on live television. Now, nineteen years and many lives lost later, we go on. Kids today don’t remember it. My youngest child was a toddler. They read about it in their history books, but it has lost much of the impact we felt living through that day. Perhaps that’s a good thing. We can’t live life to the fullest, if we’re living in constant fear.

Which brings me to our current situation. A month ago, I was one of the people calling for a complete shutdown of our country. Watching the virus spread across the globe, I thought it was obvious. We needed to jump into action STAT. Start hyper-producing the medical supplies our hospitals would need to save lives. Shut down the borders. Shut down all non-essential jobs. Ban groups of people, period.

If I had a dollar for every time someone said I was over-reacting, or being too anxious, or was just wrong, I could go invest in the stock market and improve my financial standing in life. That is assuming, which as we all know is very dangerous, I make it through this virus pandemic. I’m fifty-nine, and in good health. No underlying issues I know of, but that’s no guarantee. 

The world is discovering, Covid-19 doesn’t give a crap about what we think we know. A day or two ago, a teenager died in California. The virus didn’t get the memo the spring breakers were waving all over the beaches in Florida, saying, “This virus only kills old people” and “If I get Corona Virus, I get Corona Virus, I don’t care.” 

Really? What if it kills you? What if it kills your best friend, or your mom, or your little sister or brother? Or all of them? Still don’t care? Then I guess the old adage is true. You can’t fix stupid. 

I wonder what kind of stories our children will be telling their grandchildren about 2020, the year the world shut down. About the terrible pandemic that raged across the globe and killed millions of people in every country. We didn’t prepare even though we had ample warning. 

Seriously, people! DIdn’t your mother ever read you the story of The Little Red Hen by Mary Mapes Dodge? Or The Ant and the Grasshopper by Aesop? 

Imagine if you will, how that conversation might go. 

The Year The World Shut Down

Easter 2060
(FIction short story)

“Grandma Jillian! Are we still having that Easter Egg hunt today? Mindy won’t stop talking about it.” The girl hesitated, watching as her grandmother sighed and set down the book she’d been looking at on the coffee table. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing at all, Abby. I was looking at a book about another Easter, when millions of people died.” 

Abby frowned. “Why did they die at Easter?”

Jilian smiled and held out her arms to embrace her thirteen-year-old granddaughter. “The time I’m talking about happened way back in the year 2020. It wasn’t just Easter. It was the entire year of 2020, forty years ago, when I was a teenager myself.” 

“Mindy thinks there were dinosaurs around when you were little,” Abby said, wrinkling her nose. “She’s such a child.” 

Jillian laughed. “No dinosaurs. Mindy is only five. We can give her full points for her imagination.”

“Did you know any of the people who died?” 

Jillian’s eyes misted over, and she gazed out the picture window in her living room for a long moment. “Yes, sweetheart. It was an unseen enemy, the Covid -19 virus. Your great-grandparents died and millions of other people too. Almost everyone on the planet lost someone they loved or cared about.”

“Were they really old?”

“Not old enough,” Jillian said. “You know, at first they thought the virus would only kill old people. They were wrong.” 

“Oh, wait, okay. The Covid 19 virus. Our teacher was talking about that in class yesterday and how different it was from the one that hit when I was a little kid.” Abby shivered. “It’s scary. Why didn’t they do something to stop it in 2020? But we have vaccines and stuff now, right? We’re much safer.” 

Jillian brushed a few locks of hair out of her granddaughter’s eyes. “We’re safe as long as we never forget the lessons we learned about being prepared. That’s why so many people died. We had almost two months’ warning, but the government and the people didn‘t take it seriously. They didn’t get ready. 

“Before the virus reached us, the warnings began circulating. People didn’t listen. They didn’t want their lives disrupted. As a result, when it arrived, the virus moved from state to state, infecting millions because people refused to listen to the warnings.”

“Did you listen, Grandma?” 

Jillian gave her a wan smile. “I did. Right from the early days before it spread. So did my parents, but unfortunately, it still reached them.” 

Abby threw her arms around her grandmother’s neck and planted a kiss on her cheek. “I’m glad you listened.” 

“Me too, honey. Your mom was five years old, and your Auntie Lauren was two. I had to keep them safe.”

“Our teacher said the 2030 virus outbreak could have killed a lot of people too. It did kill some, but not millions.”

Jillian nodded. “Yes. We were prepared that time. The moment the news broke of a virus outbreak, the entire planet went into lockdown. All the countries in the world worked together to help each other. Medical supplies production went into full swing. Nobody went anywhere for eight weeks. Only people with essential jobs went to work, and they wore special clothing and masks to protect themselves from the first day the alarm sounded.”

“Dad is always talking about people needing to work to pay their bills. How did they do that if they couldn’t work?” 

“When the countries shut down, the banks and credit card companies stopped charging interest. All the financial institutions suspended loan payments for twelve weeks. The government sent out checks to help bridge the gap. Young people went shopping for the older generation so they could stay safe.”  

“Didn’t that hurt the economy? We’ve been learning about that at school.” 

“That’s one lesson they learned in 2020. You need life to have a livelihood. The economy survived just fine. In fact, after the 2030 pandemic, it roared back so strong, they called the thirties The Golden Years.”

“At least we know what to do next time,” Abby said. “Mom said there used to be homeless people when she was a kid. People actually lived on the streets?”

“There were, and they did.” 

Abby shook her head. “I can’t imagine that.”

“That’s one of the lessons we learned in the first pandemic. We the people of this planet have the resources to care for everyone.” 

The kitchen door slammed, and Abby’s little sister, five-year-old Mindy, ran into the room, holding out a book. “Grandma, will you read this to me? I just got it from the library!”  

“Of course,” Jillian said. “The Ant and The Grasshopper, by Aesop. Who chose this?”

Mindy shrugged. “Mom did. She said it reminds her of her grandma.”

Jillian pushed aside the memories of her daughter’s grief the day she’d lost her beloved grandmother, Jillian’s mother, to the Covid-19 virus. She smiled at her granddaughters and opened the book.

“In a field one summer’s day, a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart’s content. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest…”

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