By: S.L. Frisbie, IV for Polk News-Sun
S.L. Frisbie IV Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame Member, 4th-Generation Polk County Newspaper Publisher
The end of a major war is, as a general rule, a defining event in history, traceable to a given date and location.
Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House, Va., on April 9, 1865, ending the Civil War.
Germany’s signing of an armistice in the dining car of a train in northern France early on the morning of Nov. 11, 1918, ending what would become known as World War I on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
Japan’s surrender to General MacArthur on Sept. 2, 1945, on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay, bringing an end to World War II.
As of this point in mid-May, it appears that the end of the Coronavirus pandemic may be — to repeat, may be — in sight. Opinions are divided on whether or not it is too soon to make that decision and to reduce precautions against further spread of this 2020 plague..
The pandemic, though not a war in the conventional sense, is one of the most deadly crises in American history. American deaths in the first two months of the Coronavirus pandemic exceed the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War over a period of 14 years.
Future historians are unlikely to be able to pinpoint a date on which the pandemic ended.
The beginning date is also difficult to define, though in our personal experience, it can be traced to early March.
Mary and I were scheduled to go on a two-week tour of Ireland as part of an FSU alumni event. We were to depart on March 8, returning home on March 23.
With the word “Coronavirus” just entering our nation’s vocabulary, Mary and I sought the advice of our three adult children. Their concerns, plus our own, prompted us to cancel our reservation three days before our scheduled departure.
By the mid-point of the tour, those classmates who had opted to stay the course were scrambling to find a flight that would return them to the United States as soon as possible.
With some difficulty, our two daughters persuaded us to quarantine ourselves in our home. After one last shopping trip to Publix, we began ordering our groceries on-line each week, to be plucked from shelves by a stranger and delivered to our home.
Just as gas prices began to plummet, we gassed up our cars. I have driven less than 100 miles in the past 60 days; Mary has driven even less.
We began “attending” church each Sunday via a service broadcast over YouTube after the vestry wisely cancelled conventional services before the national shutdown was ordered. It has been remarkably successful.
Mary’s hour or two of volunteer work at the church office each week has been rescheduled until after the office is closed, and she wears a surgical mask when she goes to the post office to pick up the mail.
One by one, our weekly and monthly meetings and events have either been dropped from our calendars or been conducted via Zoom, an app most of us had never heard of.
We learned the meaning of a new term for occasions when it is necessary to venture beyond our front yards: “social distancing.”
Our weekly Sunday steak dinner — a tradition that dates back to the earliest days of our marriage more than 56 years ago, an event which expanded with the birth of each new child and, a generation later, with the addition of grandchildren — was put on hold to avoid the possibility, however remote, of spreading the virus within our family.
My daily exercise is now a trip to the curb to collect our mail.
Definition of the phrase “the end is (or might be) in sight” doesn’t mean that the thousand-plus deaths occurring throughout the nation each day have come to an end. It means that the numbers of deaths are gradually coming down — in most states, on most days.
It took only a week or so for the nation to go into lockdown.
The greatest danger, in my opinion, is that our national and state leaders are being much too fast to declare victory and encourage a return to business as usual.
Mary and I have chosen not to be rushed.
(S. L. Frisbie is retired. He learned the other day that he is not the only person whose clothes are fitting tighter these days. It was explained to him that this is because buttons and buttonholes are practicing social distancing.)
Reprinted with permission from Polk News-Sun