Coronavirus illustration

I have seen many things in 30 years as a journalist, 9/11 and its fallout, two presidential impeachments, multiple wars, and more.

The coronavirus is a unique scenario all its own. The closest the nation has come to something like this was in the wake of the Twin Towers collapse.

Larry Phillips mug shot

Richland Source managing editor Larry Phillips. He's led the Source newsrooms since 2016. 

Shortly after that event, I remember sitting at a football game and a plane flew overhead. It shouldn't have. Air traffic was still restricted and the same fleeting, scary thought flashed through the minds of nearly 100,000 people. Uh-oh. Obviously, nothing happened. But it was a stark reminder of the fear that existed in the wake of that tragedy.

It also brought into focus another feeling that prevailed -- a sense of community.

The 9/11 scenario had a "we" feel to it. They tell me Pearl Harbor had that component, too.

We were in this together. We were going through this as one nation. We would adapt, improvise, and overcome -- and we did, both times.

I don't feel that today.

Social media is a huge culprit. It didn't exist to anywhere near this level in 2001.

Instead of working together as we did then, donating blood, volunteering, supporting our emergency responders, too many have raced to their echo chambers and are simply shouting from their respective corners. This has become our go-to move -- mostly because the nation is dramatically divided from a political perspective that insists on intruding in our every thought.

This mindset is dividing us even more.

But the fact is this time we have a common enemy -- the coronavirus. No matter your take on this, and make no mistake there are radical extremes in both directions -- from 200 million Americans will get this and 10 million Americans will die on one side, to this is a complete hoax to stifle the stock market brought to you courtesy of The Deep State on the other -- this should be, as Winston Churchill said in 1940, "Our finest hour."

We're not living up to that mantra. Just ask Irv, in aisle 4, as he continues the search for toilet paper.

The coronavirus shouldn't be viewed as a chance to take a shot at local, state or national leadership. Predictably, the political operatives are doing exactly that in full force, and embarrassing the hell out of themselves in the process.

Quite the contrary. This is a personal thing. It should start with each one of us, in our homes, in our daily lives, in our behavior, in what we say and do. All of us can lean into this one and lead by example.

Some are doing exactly that, volunteering to babysit, cooking a meal for a neighbor or a friend, chipping in on errands or rides.

Our healthcare professionals are another good example. They are at the front line of this situation. Check out how many doctors, nurses, EMTs, hospital personnel and support staff are doing their thing, and in heroic fashion. They deserve tremendous credit for hanging in there, doing their job, and maintaining their professionalism in perhaps their biggest challenge to date.

Understandably, we all want answers. Many of them aren't available yet. It's the first time through much of this for all of us. Not the first pandemic, but the first closing of schools, cancellation of sports seasons, excusing Sunday mass obligations, and rules against the gathering of more than 100 people.

No one enjoys such restrictions. Yet patience should be a consistent passenger as we find our way, and our leaders must be given the latitude to find their way, too.

Busting their chops as they do it is weak sauce. Cool composure and thoughtful deliberation will win the day. It nearly always does, and it's an admirable quality in every setting anyway.

If any of us is stricken with coronavirus, it's not a death sentence. In fact, that's one of the few things the medical experts, and God knows I've read far too many of their varied and diverse opinions over the past week, seem to agree upon.

Think about your fellow man. For those that fall ill, and some among us might, remember the overwhelming majority of people who suffer this get better and will be just fine.

It's the most vulnerable among our population that we're going through all of this to protect. My parents are in their 70s with health issues, my mother-in-law is in her 90s. I get it, all thoughtful people do.

The intent is not to preach from a pulpit, but to acknowledge the obvious. We can improve from an attitude standpoint because we're better than this -- and that's something each of us can control.

It's not that hard to act upon. Be helpful, not hysterical.

We need to live our daily lives, but be mindful in how we do it. Simple as that.

If you feel yourself mentally fatigued by it all, put the phone down (and as the editor of multiple online websites that hurts to say), and give yourself a break. Read a book. Catch a movie. Call a friend. Go for a walk. Take a nap. Break out a bicycle. Enjoy some ice cream. Squeeze a pet.

I promise, we'll all be here when you get back. We plan to keep covering this situation locally in a fair and helpful manner. Distributing information to and from the community is why we're here.

If we stray from that mission, call us on it. Even if we disagree, we can do so without being disagreeable. All feedback is valued on our end.

Finally, we're going to win this thing. So let's behave with that simple knowledge.

For those of you hell-bent on your hatred of the opposing political party, fear not. Your political axe will be there, sharp as ever, waiting for you to wield all the way to November -- and I have no doubt you will swing it with vigor.

Just don't swing it now. This isn't the time for that.

If you haven't seen it, give yourself a treat, the high road has the best view.

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