Unlike my maternal great-grandmother, who died during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic while giving birth to her son, who died then too, I survived the birth of my two children and we all survived the 2019 Covid pandemic. We, and much of the world, survived in large part because of the Covid vaccines. While also a multi-year pandemic that scuttled most of 2020 and caused significant disruptions of daily life in 2021 and 2022, in contrast to the Flu pandemic, humankind has been able to combat the Covid pandemic with the miracle of highly effective vaccines developed at lightning speed. It reminded me of a scene from the Apollo 13 movie where NASA engineers were given a box, a string and an hour to create a device for three astronauts to breathe in their damaged spaceship. Failure was not an option. The NASA engineers did it, the Apollo 13 astronauts lived. Humanity had to develop a Covid vaccine and they did. Ingenuity at its finest. A miracle.
When the Covid pandemic started, we didn't know how it was going to turn out. Covid is still with us, but in its current mutation - I think the fourth, scientists differ over the count - Covid is less likely to lead to hospitalization and death. Now Covid is less deadly, especially for those who are vaxed. When Covid hit the U.S. in March of 2020, nobody knew if they would get it and if so, if they'd live. We became afraid of each other, we feared for our loved ones. My adult children were far away, I didn't know if I'd survive, if they'd survive, if I'd see them again.
I thought this is what it must have been like to live thru WWII, to not know when it started for the U.S. that it would last 4 years, to not know if the Allies would win, to not know if all your loved ones would survive. My experience of WWII was only a time I read about in school and since then, in stories, fact and fiction, told and retold in books, boring and exciting. Except I knew the ending, I knew the Allies won, I knew my family lived. I could cover the whole time period, from start to finish, in a couple of hours, always with the knowledge of victory, not burdened with the uncertainty of loss for 4 long years.
Before the Covid pandemic, I never thought about how life was day-to-day during WWII, how to live with the uncertainty of not knowing the outcome, of not knowing when the crisis would end, of not knowing if today would be the day you got a call that someone you love had died. It's amazing the circumstances and uncertainty we learn to live with. Because we have no choice, we carry on, some seemingly coping more easily than others. None of us unaffected, all in the same boat, all reminded that life is finite for everyone.
I think it's better we didn't know how long the Covid pandemic would last when it started - we're in year 3 and it's not over yet. Still, it's better, less scary with the vaccines. I think it would have been too discouraging to know from the start how long the Covid pandemic would last, we were spared that knowledge and had to live how we're always urged, one day at a time.
I thought if I died, it would be sad but not tragic. I've been married to the love of my life for over 30 years, raised two fabulous kids, had a happy childhood, have several wonderful friends, had the career I wanted, have played and traveled, I've had a good life. But my kids, they were just starting their adult lives, neither was married yet (my son would become engaged and married during the Covid pandemic), neither had a family, both were early in their careers. If either died of Covid, their life would be cut short, they would be cheated. And I could do nothing but hope, hope for a miracle, pray for a vaccine.
My son is a healthcare data scientist who worked on many Covid problems during the Covid pandemic. When analyzing some initial Covid data of infection rates and likelihood of transmission if remote workers returned to work in-person, my son's conclusion was, "we need a vaccine." Bright and well-educated, not one to shy from difficult and complex problems, his conclusion was sobering. He found there was no algorithm, no formula, no solution to the problem of how to safely return to in-person work at the start of the Covid pandemic short of a vaccine. Staggered returns, returns by geography, by age, by risk level, the outcomes were essentially impossible to predict and thus, recommend. Only a vaccine could tamp down the risk, although not eliminate it. Not stop transmission but decrease the chance of hospitalization and most importantly, prevent death. They do, the Covid vaccines, the best vaccines ever invented in our lifetime.
In record time, when the world came together, scientists and physicians from various countries, sharing information, setting aside territorial claims of credit to develop lifesaving Covid vaccines. Cutting thru government bureaucracy while still applying safety standards. Nevermind supply chains, production, packaging, distribution and administration of the vaccines. A level of cooperation unheard of beforehand. I say again, a miracle.