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It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since Connecticut’s first case of COVID-19 was announced on March 8, 2020. It feels like five years, or ten, or maybe a million, this yawning gap between the world as it was and the world now. So much has happened, so much has been lost, and so much has changed that it’s probably impossible to understand the whole of it. It’s important that we try anyway.

First, the hard numbers. 287,396 cases of the novel coronavirus had been reported in Connecticut as of Monday, out of a population of over 3.5 million. That’s fully 8% of the population that came down with this miserable disease. A lot of them were fine. Many got sick and recovered. Some will never be the same as they struggle with the aftereffects.

But 7,725 of us died.

It’s hard to wrap our heads around that number. It’s like thinking about the 524,000 who have died nationally, or the 2.59 million deaths around the world. Beyond a certain point our brains don’t comprehend what a big number like that means.

Let me try to put it in perspective. Have you been to Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford to see a Yard Goats game? Imagine that beautiful stadium packed with people, every seat filled to watch the game and have a good time. Think of the people crowding the concourse, the vendors hawking hot dogs, beer and shirts, the players, the coaches, the staff, the radio guys in the booth, the parking lot attendants, and even the cops out in the street directing traffic. All of that boisterous, diverse, amazing life!

Now picture them all gone. The stadium is empty, the streets silent, the field bare.

That’s how many. 

Each death has ripple effects. How much have we spent in grief, how has the entire economy of loss consumed us?

And what of the living? We all paid a price. Maybe it was paid in isolation and the pain of only seeing friends and family through a screen. Maybe you paid in exhaustion, trying to look after bored and jumpy kids while trying to work and survive at the same time. Or maybe you paid in the slow, squeezing fear of going to work and never knowing who in the office, the restaurant, the hospital or in the public had it and could pass it to you and your loved ones. We all paid in the daily grind of the endless emergency, vigilantly wearing masks and staying apart, hope ebbing away that it would ever end.

At the beginning, we talked all the time of what we’d do after. I can’t remember the last time I thought about that.

There’s a pile of used masks on the floor of the passenger side of my car. From time to time, when I think it’s safe, I clean them out of there. I think I’d feel strange and exposed if I was out in public without a mask now. I started a new job back in May, and I don’t know what most of the lower halves of my co-workers’ faces look like. The backs of my ears are sore from where the mask fits over them.

But the most devastating blow for me was the loss of the last shreds of my belief that in a crisis, the vast majority of Americans would band together to do what was right. Other countries managed it! But not us. Not here. We’re too broken for that.

So to all of you who spread the lie that this was some kind of hoax, that masks and distancing were signs of weakness and that it was fine to go out and party like things were normal: tell it to a baseball stadium full of ghosts.

Not everything was loss and grief. There have been moments of transcendence. Yes, there are many villains, but there have absolutely been heroes as well. From doctors, nurses, and other health care workers doing the dangerous grunt work of this pandemic every day, to teachers trying to find ways to keep kids engaged through Zoom, to the underpaid grocery store workers and delivery people, we have seen people stand up and serve. 

We have seen the absolute lows of human behavior, but we’ve also seen the astonishing scientific brilliance the human mind is capable of: less than a year into the pandemic, not just one vaccine, but many. 

And maybe, just maybe, we’ve learned that we need one another, and that taking care of the least of us is the obligation of all of us. 

So take heart. Someday in the not-too-distant future, we’ll take off the masks and feel the rays of the summer sun on our whole faces.

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.

The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

Susan Bigelow

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.