March 11, 2021

Today is Pandemic Day.

It’s the one-year anniversary of the day that world slowed to a grind. You know, the day Tom Hanks tested positive for COVID and the NBA shut down. Since then, there have been victories (the courageous efforts of our health professionals and the creation of not one but three successful vaccines) and tragedies (over 525,000 Americans dead with many more struggling to recover to normalcy). There have been ugly moments, mostly revolving around the politicization of the virus. That, sadly, has made the tragedy so much worse.

Looking back, I think about how the world changed. We learned how to Zoom, how to virtual learn, how to eat takeout and how to social distance. We learned how much we need human connection. (Thank God this happened when we had the Internet.) Mask mandates came and went. We helped and complained — we grieved and put all five stages out there on Facebook. Cases waxed and waned. Medical professionals learned on the fly how to treat seriously ill patients as science worked hard to catch up. At first, we couldn’t touch our faces. Then we figured out we were most likely to catch the disease from swapping air with those around us. Businesses struggled. Our mental health struggled. We lost parents and grandparents and friends –so many suffered alone. There has been a mix of outrage and sadness.

It has been exhausting.

The 1918 Flu, which is the only pandemic in the U.S. to have killed more Americans than this one, was quickly pushed aside after the third wave of deaths. There were no memorials to the dead other than the lingering fear of the survivors. Reading about that dark time, I wonder how this time will be viewed by history. The virus has ripped back the curtain on our institutions and our individual souls, revealing our true natures. It hasn’t always been pretty. The economy will come roaring back. Businesses that survived the initial heart attack will too.

The light at the end of the tunnel is upon us.

I look forward to the day when I can get back on a stage and speak to 1,000 people, sit in a bar, cheer my team in a crowded stadium and go to a concert.

Personally, I am grateful. The curtain got ripped back on me as well. I see the world in a different way than I did a year ago. I don’t look for the best in people anymore — I realize that is naive. I also know that most people are inheritantly selfish. We have viewed this pandemic through the lens of our own experience. For me, it took a physical toll. My back is garbage and I am not in good shape from sitting so much. On the bright side, I have perfected new skills and have adapted to the changes required. I also have gotten better at cutting people some slack.

We’re all going through this together, even if some handle it in a different way. One year. Twelve months. Three hundred and sixty five days. We are changed. It’s up to us to make it for the better.

I just hope Dr. Dobbs can get a day off.

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Marshall Ramsey, a nationally recognized editorial cartoonist, shares his cartoons and travels the state as Mississippi Today’s Editor-At-Large. He’s also host of a weekly statewide radio program and a television program on Mississippi Public Broadcasting and is the author of several books. Marshall is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and a 2019 recipient of the University of Tennessee Alumni Professional Achievement Award.