We're in the midst of a pandemic that could result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans, and the experts call that a “best-case scenario.”

It will touch the lives of us all, for decades to come.

Many who live in the south will never forget April 25, 2011. In my neck of the woods, we lost 80 lives in a 60 mile radius, in the span of a few hours. The property damage was also devastating. Ever since that day, we get nervous if there's a strong breeze in the forecast. When the wind starts whistling and the trees begin to sway, we head for our safe space. Our survival instinct kicks in.

We don't know how long this pandemic will last, nor do we know how it will end. What will “normal” be like a year from now? Will you eagerly reach out and shake someone's hand? If a good friend rushes in for a hug, will you move forward, or back away? If the man next to you in church sneezes, will you move to a different pew? At what point will you feel comfortable in a crowded theater? It's much like our first steps. We're unsteadily moving forward.

This much I know. Just as firefighters, police officers and EMT's became heroes to us after 9/11, we are now adding doctors, nurses, and their assistants to that category. We have long thanked our military personnel for their service, as we should. Now, the brave men and women who staff our hospitals and medical offices are on the front lines, working long hours. They're fighting an unseen enemy, at great risk to themselves and their families. They are in the line of fire, trying to save our lives. In some cases, they are unable to do so, and they will carry that burden forever. We will always salute our heroes in fatigues. Let's add those in scrubs to the list.

We must now honor our doctors' requests to isolate ourselves, to help them help us. Our strong nation must join hands, even when we cannot touch each other. 

I get upset when I see cocky conspiracy theorists and selfish religious leaders not only ignore this directive, but actually encourage people to act as if they are invincible. Many say their personal liberties are being threatened. Freedom will be the last thing on their mind when they, their spouse, their parents or their children get sick We must follow the medical recommendations, and reject the notion that helping quell a national emergency is a sign of weakness. It is the most courageous, and patriotic action we can take. Take a look at the death toll and turmoil in Louisiana and Florida, to name a few. We can do better.

Others are still playing the blame game. They expend more energy on how we got here, rather than focusing on what is important now: helping Americans get back to full health as soon as possible. You can point fingers all you want, but let's beat this, and then support our elected officials and medical experts as they identify the preventative measures we must take to ensure better outcomes in the future.

Trust me on this. At some point, a lot of time and effort will go into figuring out how to prevent a pandemic from shutting down our nation again. We have made adjustments after every war, every terrorist attack, every mass shooting, and every natural catastrophe to make our lives safer. We invented oven mitts, seat belts, life jackets, helmets, and safety masks because our scientists and engineers value life.

Speaking of experts, I am grateful for Dr. Anthony Fauci, who at age 79 is the nation's top authority on infectious disease, and he's also leading the fight to limit the fatalities. Some on the political fringe have criticized his efforts to keep us out of harm's way, calling him a “deep state operative” who is trying to destroy our economy. Unfortunately, the dark corners of social media give such people a megaphone to cause disruption. Ignore them. When Dr. Fauci speaks, we should listen and learn. When we were growing up, our respected elders taught us not to play with fire. This wise doctor is trying to keep us out of today's raging flames.

Finally, let's cherish each moment of hope, progress, and normalcy. My friend Harold Stockburger said it best one recent evening as he looked skyward. He told me, "I saw this amazing crack in the clouds with the sun shining through. It made me think that one day soon this dark cloud over our world will crack, and we will see sunlight again." Yes we will, Harold. I know we will.

 (David Carroll, a Chattanooga news anchor, is the author of “Volunteer Bama Dawg,” available on his website, ChattanoogaRadioTV.com.  You may contact him at radiotv2020@yahoo.com, or 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405)

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