Remember The Heroes

We'll never forget the courage of the healthcare workers who are on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19.

We were planning to talk to you today about what BF is doing to fulfill our Coronavirus Mission Statement, including our upcoming special issue COVID-19: Response and Recovery and a related series of webinars and podcasts we’ll soon be launching.

COVID-19 healthcare workers heroesBut we’re not going to talk to you about that today. Sitting here in New Jersey, which along with New York City has become the epicenter of the global pandemic, we’re not going to pretend that it’s business as usual.

Not when our hospitals are running out of crucial equipment and our funeral homes are running out of body bags, forcing resident doctors in hospitals to decide who lives and who dies and funeral home directors to decide who gets buried, whenever it is that we can safely have funerals again.

Not when a war has come to New Jersey and we’re taking hundreds of casualties on the front lines each week, not just the patients who are taking their last breaths on ICU beds, but the doctors and nurses and EMTs who keep moving forward to confront the enemy, putting their lives on the line every minute of every agonizing day.

The nine million people of the great state of New Jersey know that America is at stake in this war and—don’t take our word for it, take it from George Washington–when a battle for America needs to be fought, New Jersey always will rise to the occasion. We’re bending the curve of this outbreak and we want you to know we’ll break it before it breaks us, no matter what.

We want to look directly into the eyes of the handful of states who have not yet shut down non-essential businesses—you know who you are—and tell them that we’ll all remember what everyone did (or, in this case, did not do) in this crisis. There will be no hiding the fact that countless lives were needlessly sacrificed in an inexcusably irresponsible display of hubris by a few public officials who should have known better.

But let’s not waste another sentence on those losers, because what we really want to talk about are the heroes.

America’s healthcare workers have refused to retreat from a massive assault of sickness and death that has turned our hospitals into scenes of unspeakable carnage, many of them falling sick and barely pausing to recover before they rush back to the front lines and wield their hard-fought immunity as a shield in hand-to-hand combat with this insidious enemy. Many of them—too many of them—are dying in the prime of their lives.

We see our doctors and nurses and paramedics and all of the workers who support them—the ambulance drivers and the cleaning crews and the people who cook the food in the hospital kitchens—ignoring their own fears and vulnerabilities, isolating themselves from friends and family to fight the good fight and turn the tide in a war we must not lose.

They’re bearing the unbearable and working through exhaustion, yet still find the strength to comfort the victims, holding the hands of patients who must die in the company of strangers because of the pitiless tyranny of a global pandemic. Our healthcare workers have been forced to cobble together the protective gear they desperately need and invent new ways to stretch a dwindling supply of breathing tubes and ventilators because we sent them into battle without the necessary armor, a shameful lapse that must never be repeated.

Our hospitals are hallowed ground now. Those who are fighting and falling on the front lines there have etched their names into our pantheon of heroes, where they will reside forever alongside Americans who stormed the beaches in Normandy and survived the winter in the woods at Valley Forge and others who have written the most stirring chapters of courage in our national story.

Last night, Passover was observed in America; tomorrow we’ll mark Good Friday and on Sunday, Easter will arrive. This year, we’ll rely on nature’s bounty of blossoming flowers in our front and back yards to remind us of parades of Easter bonnets.

These holidays celebrate miracles, reminding us in these perilous times that America itself is the embodiment of a miracle. The DNA of our experiment in human dignity can be expressed in noble words chiseled in cold marble in the shrines of our nation’s capital, but ours is a code that truly lives in our hearts.

The recombinant DNA of the bug that is attacking us is nothing more than a chemical anomaly, created by an accident of nature that most likely occurred when an ugly little anteater snuffled up a bat dropping on a dirt road in China. It’s a toxic signature that issues a brainless command to endlessly make copies of itself, like the needle on an old phonograph that’s stuck in the suddenly imperfect groove of a vinyl LP, emitting a hideous screech over and over again, drowning out the sublime music we expected to hear.

We’ll defeat this enemy because our American code is unique and singular: E Pluribus Unum. Out of many, one.

Our code is on display today in emergency rooms and intensive care units and at all of the temporary field hospitals that have been established in the spaces that used to be our convention centers and stadium parking lots and in the nave of the largest cathedral in the nation’s largest city.

Our code is embodied by the heroes who have honored it—and all of us—with their courageous sacrifices. We’ll never forget them, and we’ll pass that memory on to the generations to come so they’ll understand that here in America our miracle doesn’t depend on an accident of nature, like the summer sun we all fervently hope will diminish this threat. It always depends on us.

Whenever we stand together—okay, this time, not too close together—we always rise together.

Always. Count on it.

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