Life is full of befores and afters.
There is life as a child, before one is an adult, and life as an adult, after one is no longer a child. There is life before one is married and a life after one is married. There is a life before becoming a mother (when one thinks they know just how to raise a child) and then there is life after becoming a mother (when one realizes how very little one knows on how to raise a child).
One similar experience we shared happened on September 11th, 2001. There was our life before the attacks on 9/11 and then there was our life after 9/11. Sometimes it is difficult to remember the before. The safety of the American people on American soil was something I know I didn't even think about. There had never been a terror attack on our country such as what happened on that day. People went about their daily lives until they didn't. The after I remember very well. At the time we lived in Norther New Jersey. My husband worked at the World Trade Center but was not in NYC that day but in Boston for a business conference. We had gone as a family. Driving home later that day was something I will not forget. The cell phones did not work. Listening to the radio in the car. Driving around (instead of through) NYC to get home. Seeing the smoke where the towers once stood. Seeing Black Hawk helicopters for days patrolling the skies. Seeing our military on the streets of NYC. The cries and the silence of those who lost loved ones that day. And then there was the later on after. The uneasiness and hesitation to fly on an airplane. The raised awareness of our surroundings in case there were other terrorist cell groups. I also remember the after of camaraderie. I remember the patriotism. We were all in this together.
And now, our before this deadly pandemic... life was not perfect as it rarely is but there was a plan and a future that looked promising. Children played together and went to school until they didn't. Families went to restaurants and parks and ballgames until they didn't. People went grocery shopping for anything they wanted or at least what they could afford until they didn't. Everyone who wished to go to church went to church until they didn't. Grownups went to work at their jobs until they didn't. Many elderly people enjoyed lived in nice assisted living homes until they didn't. Yes, these are generalities but I believe you can understand the sentiment.
I do not know if we are in the during or in the after. I don't know if anyone knows.
In the during, we stayed home. Unless we were essential workers, we stayed home. Unless we needed to go to the grocery store or pick up food at the restaurant or other places that were "approved". And I believe most of us did this. We needed to do this to flatten the curve. We needed to make sure that the hospitals weren't overwhelmed. And now, so we are told, the curve has flattened. Yes, there are still deaths. But there are less people being admitted into the hospital. Mission accomplished.
And this is where it gets sticky. One person's after is another person's during.
The nation is divided into two groups. One side wants to make the choice to return to work and to what life was like. The other side wants others to make the choice for everyone. They want to wait and they want others to wait. Until when, I wonder.
Until everyone can be tested? I don't think that is possible even if the tests were reliable.
Until there is a vaccine? If there is a vaccine that works on the virus if its mutations haven't evolved as it will most certainly do...
Is it too much to ask or rather insist that people remain in their homes for the unforeseeable future?
The state of Virginia's State Health Commissioner, Norman Oliver, recently said that it could take 2 years. Two years. Think about it. I exchanged emails with a good friend who lives in Virginia. She says that it won't be long before there is rebellion in the streets. People want to work. People want to feed their families.
The during/after is very different for everyone. Some people can remain home and not experience financial difficulty. Others can not. Some people can work from home. Others can not. Some people have plenty to eat. Others do not. Some people can shop for groceries or have them delivered. Others wait for hours upon hours in food pantry lines hoping to get enough food for their families to last a week or two.
One person's after is another person's during. The difference is a choice. Or it should be.
The United States of America - the land of the free and the home of the brave. It was. And I fear it will not be again.
There is no freedom to choose to work - to pursue happiness. There is no freedom to assemble. There is no freedom of religion (to practice one's faith as one chooses to). Other freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States are slowly being chipped away.
I suppose the question we need to ask ourselves is what will remain when our afters are the same. Will we remain divided or will we stand together? Will we even notice?