Carol Barker writes: 'Surreal, but it's real'

Carol Barker writes: 'Surreal, but it's real'

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It’s surreal. Anxiety hangs like a black cloud threatening to obliterate all the light that’s left in the world. At night, my sleep is intermittent and accompanied by uneasy dreams.

As another day of quarantine breaks – I’ve lost track of what number now, I reach for the TV remote, dreading the latest death count from COVID-19. But the need to know and to inform others that comes from a long career as a reporter outweighs the dread, and I click on, horrified yet again by the stark facts before me.

I thought I had written about every kind of horrific tragedy possible before retiring last year after 50 years as a journalist – floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks, the massacre of the Mother Emanuel parishioners in Charleston, the house fire in Bamberg one frigid winter night that claimed the lives of multiple children, and on and on. But I never imagined I would see our country being brought to its knees by an invisible invader while health officials warn that even in the best-case scenario, 94,000 to 240,000 Americans could die from complications of the coronavirus. Every one of us will know someone who dies from this, one physician said on MSNBC.

I am afraid for all of us, especially the medical professionals and public safety officers and others on the front lines saving lives while risking their own. As one of the at-risk population, I am worried about my own safety, and I’ve taken all the recommended safeguards so as not to be exposed to the virus. I wish everyone would use common sense and do the same. It is not just elderly people dying; young people are dying, too. And, no, that’s not fake news.

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I am blessed to have loved ones who have my back and are watching out for me. Many people don’t, and I pray for them.

Yesterday,  my best friend made a surprise visit bearing toilet paper, a rare commodity these days. The real gift, though, was her presence. I hadn’t seen her in several weeks, and her visit lifted my spirits. I sat on the front steps of the house, and she sat on the walkway at a safe distance. We couldn’t hug hello or goodbye as we typically do, but we reached out to each other with encouraging words and soul-healing laughter.

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I have great hope and faith in the inherent goodness of people. We are all connected, and we need each other. We want to help each other through this; you can see proof of that in the thousands who have volunteered to help in hard-hit New York and across the country.

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 Some very dark days are ahead of us, but we are resilient, and if we look out for one another, we will emerge on the other side of this battle stronger and more appreciative of life.

Carol B. Barker is retired region editor of The Times and Democrat.

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