Will future generations understand what the Virus War of 2020 was really like?

They will never understand the fear, confusion and courage of ordinary people.

SHARE Will future generations understand what the Virus War of 2020 was really like?
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A demonstrator in Chicago last week calls on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to suspend rent and mortgage payments to help those who have lost their income due to the coronavirus.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

This is a letter in a bottle to future generations who will never understand the fear, confusion and courage of the ordinary person during The Virus War of 2020.

I am talking about the waitress trying to raise her children without a job. You see, the restaurants were closed. The government provided a tiny bit of money, but not enough to pay the rent, feed the kids and keep the phone and internet operating.

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Such a woman had to explain to her children why they could not see their friends, go to school, or visit Grandma. Maybe she had to tell them why they didn’t have the computer they needed to attend virtual classes, which were the only ones available.

This was like a horror story, this Virus War. Only worse. Because the enemy could not be seen.

Somewhere out there were families of illegal immigrants, millions of them, who lost their jobs cooking in restaurants, busing tables, washing dishes, cleaning floors, maybe doing all of the above for cash.

They lived in fear of getting sick even before the virus, because they also lived in fear of being discovered. Taking a sick child to an emergency room might mean someone would report family members for being undocumented.

Father and mother might be sent to another country. The children into foster care.

You can’t imagine the fear. The courage. The stealth and shrewdness necessary to stay alive, stay together and survive.

The president called it a war. But he did not understand what it meant to the people on the front lines. The foot soldiers. Few of us could.

Doctors, nurses, paramedics and policemen were hailed as heroes, but it was the forgotten people, the invisible people, who also were asked to make sacrifices.

They were invisible even before The Virus War.

I am thinking of grandparents raising children because the mothers and fathers were drug addicts, were serving prison time or had simply left their youngsters behind.

I am talking about grandparents who were only children themselves (16, 17, 18) when they had children, but now worked jobs cleaning toilets, or doing laundry, or running neighborhood day care centers for people before the virus hit.

Now they had to stand in line at food pantries. Sew masks.

And as they sewed, they wondered if they would ever get a real job again.

Some people protested in the streets. But these people, the ones I am telling you about, could not go into the streets to protest. They had to stay home.

They had to be so cautious, so very careful, not to show their fear because their children were frightened already. What if Grandma should get sick?

When such people shed tears, and they did, they had to do it behind closed doors, in an apartment with walls so thin the neighbors could hear.

The crying was not seen. They were tears falling in the rain, as a screenwriter once wrote.

I would like to tell you about the old people, the ones who were in nursing homes, or taken to hospitals, and could not be seen by their spouses as they took their last breaths.

Some of them died from the virus. But others just died, as they would have otherwise, only with no loved ones around them to hold their hands.

Funerals were planned that no one would attend because the Virus War required separation and isolation.

Someone needs to remember all of this. Someone needs to recall the sacrifices that were made.

And someone needs to remember the grandchild who draped a blanket over his head as protection from the evil virus so he could run and hug his grandparents who had parked their car in a driveway.

That was the Virus War of 2020. But unless you were there you cannot know what it was like.

philkadner@gmail.com

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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