A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Lynn James: We’ve made it halfway through 2021 — remembering what was, as we move on

We’ve made it halfway through the year – already – filled with fireworks, cookouts, and gatherings.

And that’s not all the celebrating we did that we are moving forward with life in these United States. We saw 2 billionaires blast off into space as private citizens on the plane-like Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity and the pilot-less Blue Origin’s New Shepard. One billionaire wanted his to be the first civilian flight in space while the other picked his date to honor the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. However, with all this excitement in July of 2021, we must not for forget how the first half of this year ended also with noteworthy events.

Fighting COVID with vaccine.

Most masks have gone away. More people are “out and about” in the stores, restaurants and at events, and seem happier than ever. But in our haste to make our lives seem back to normal, let’s not forget those who are still suffering the consequences of the pandemic either with financial hardship or devastating losses of the ones they love. Those pillars of pain are still happening to many including myself with the loss of my cousin from COVID this past May. That painful sting will stay with our family long after the visible signs of the pandemic are gone.

As we rounded the corner in June to mid-year, we witnessed the nationalization of Juneteenth Freedom Day in recognition that, yes, slavery did horribly exist in these United States, and that yes, it was ended by the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865. Moreover, despite that, some in our nation were enslaved for 2 1/2 years after they were freed.

The Juneteenth Freedom Day was followed by the 22 1/2 year sentencing of Derek Chauvin (white cop) for the murder of George Floyd (black victim). The repetition of the number 2 from both the past and present is “uncanny.”

But the celebration of the 22 1/2 year sentence was short-lived when on July 2, Tennessee Officer Andrew Delke (white cop) was sentenced for assassinating Daniel Hambrick (black victim) squarely in the back as Daniel was running away unarmed. Delke received 3 short years to pay for his crime. Tennessee sees that as a step in the right direction. Quite a baby step, if you ask most, particularly those in Minneapolis. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Honoring the COVID dead.

Before starting the second half of this year, we also saw the collapse of one of the Champlain Towers in Surfside, Florida. Not as tall as the World Trade Center towers in New York City and no plane was involved, but just as devasting for those who lost a loved one in that tower including a firefighter whose 7-year-old daughter was found dead in the rubble.

Those missing are still being searched for. Those searching remind us of the search of the rubble in New Year City nearly 20 years ago. Yes, this Sept. 11 is the 20th anniversary of 911. How strange the Florida tower collapsed so close to our national and somber anniversary. At the time of this writing, 22 people were still unaccounted for. Here again, the repetition of the number 2 is “disturbing” in so many ways.

So why bring up the bad and sad news when we need a break from it and we are all in the pursuit of happiness again? Can we just be happy the pandemic is closer to over than it has ever been?

The pandemic has changed life plans for some in a good way. Deciding that retirement at 62 and spending more time with your spouse traveling works just as well as working until age 67 behind a desk. Discovering grandchildren playing in your own home and backyard is more rewarding and personally satisfying than taking them to an organized event (and much cheaper). Developing a plan to cut back on extra time spent in the office, so more time can be spent with our family once we have to “travel” to work again can actually be achieved for the benefit of all.

Covington firefighters helping in Surfside FL

Why bring up the bad with the good? Although we seem to be out of a “national” trauma and tragedy, the odds we will individually and periodically experience personal trauma and tragedy again is guaranteed. Those tragedies will seem less impactful to us as a whole when, for example, pockets of the U.S. are profoundly affected again by the still ongoing coronavirus spread fueled by the delta variant. Just like the tragic tower collapse in Florida now is less impactful to us as a whole than the 911 tower attacks and collapse in New York almost 20 years ago.

Just like not knowing when the pandemic would hit (although scientists knew it was close with the last one being almost exactly 100 years ago) we have to live on and wait for it to happen. Take advantage of enjoying life when times are good, keeping in mind we don’t know when the tide will turn. Live like my cousin Lainey did – enduring the bad times; enjoying the good. Hope I never forget this lesson she taught me.

As we enjoy the remaining good summer weather months of July, August, and even September, let us not strive to survive as we did over the past year and a half, but instead thrive because we now can.

Here’s to Freedom, Independence and Happiness for everyone.

Lynn James is a lifelong resident of Northern Kentucky and has lived in Boone, Kenton, and Campbell counties. She enjoys living and observing real life with real people.

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