We recently saw the 20th anniversary of 9/11. I have met several people over the years who got lost in the debris of the falling towers that day.

Some of them expressed that, in those moments, they thought they were already dead. They didn’t know that they would walk out of the smoke and see their loved ones again.

I think the pandemic has touched us in a similar way. Still in the thick of it, we don’t know if we will walk away from it completely. Too many have not walked away from it. Many that have experienced illness weren’t sure if they would live to see their family and friends once more.

Like those who experienced the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, we share a vulnerability.

At the beginning of the pandemic, when the world was in a collective shutdown, people across the globe were champions for one another. There were so many stories of humans being good to each other. It made us feel connected and stronger in the face of the horror and the unknown.

It’s what I saw in the videos of survivors in New York City. All they had was each other as they grasped hands in the dark and walked out of the debris together. There was a common bond being shared.

In the struggle to survive the attack people in the streets were holding one another up, leaning on the shoulders of perfect strangers as they made their way out of the darkness toward safety.

I saw arms reaching to help people climb over rails and get on boats to cross the Hudson to clearer skies.

There’s been a great divide stemming from how individuals have chosen to handle COVID-19 precautions, and the disagreements have made us an enemy to one another — when the disease is the real enemy.

We still share a common goal: survival.

We are people who want to see our children grow up, who want our parents with us for as long as possible, who want our husbands and wives to be safe and well.

Fear is a warranted response to the times we are living in, but if we aren’t careful fear can lead us to being part of the problem rather than the solution.

And I don’t believe that anyone wants to be on that side of the equation.

On some level, no one likes to be told what to do. What one calls a violation of rights another calls responsible action and service toward humankind. It is more difficult for some to trust the word of certain agencies when it comes down to being given instructions on the best practices for well-being. That’s understandable.

But there comes a point when adjustments must be made to how we think and reason, especially when a solution to such a dangerous problem lies in individual response and when the wrong response can result in sickness and death.

Unfortunately, we are well past that point.

I think about those working tirelessly, against all odds at times, continuing to extend themselves in an effort to keep other humans here on earth. They have families too. They’ve lost loved ones too. And they are still serving us.

I think about those we have lost — the childhood friends, the favorite aunt, the beloved grandparent, the kind neighbor.

My thoughts are with the orphans, widows, widowers, and now — more and more childless parents. We have all been robbed.

These faces and voices occupy my mind more than the arguments and debates now, more than the frustration over rhetoric I have struggled to make sense of.

Can we endeavor to be champions for each other, once again?

Could we meet each other in remembrance of what it is we all desperately want to see preserved: humanity.

Born in Rome, Olivia Gunn returned to her roots after a brief time of study at a university in Scotland. She is currently working on a book of essays and poetry as well as a memoir.


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