By Niall O’Dowd, Publisher
When catastrophic change comes it leaves us disbelieving at first and very slow to accept. Such is the way with COVID-19.
The warning signs were all there, bird flu and SARS, two forerunners could easily have been contagious killer viruses but we dodged two bullets. The world promptly turned its head away.
But like the warning flare of the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, we missed the signals again and a million or so people will likely die.
Perhaps it is because we simply didn’t believe it could happen. Both personally and from reading the lessons of unexpected events I think we all have a lot to learn.
In my lifetime being present in San Francisco during an earthquake and watching 9/11 from my apartment roof in Manhattan felt like unreal experiences, like watching a disaster movie. There was a disbelief, a feeling I could not trust my very eyes.
People often act in such a detached way when there is major tragedy. They simply refuse at first to absorb it.
When the Second World War was being forecast there was a period where the protagonists, mainly Germany, France and Britain did not take it too seriously. After blundering into one world war in 1914 surely it would not happen again just 25 years later?
The great American reporter William Shirer, based in Berlin for CBS noted how its citizens hardly discussed it and treated the occasional air raid testings as nothing to be worried about.
It was only when Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939 that people woke up. Even then a “phony war” existed with little happening until the April of the following year. Germany was sure Britain would sue for peace.
Churchill proved otherwise.
Like that phony war phase, COVID-19 has still not fully sunk in for millions of us, a virus we first heard about with reports of numerous sick people in a country and a continent far away. It seemed of little danger.
Even when it hit America we were sleepwalking. When there were 15 cases the president told us there would soon be none. Fox News hosts hee hawed at all the fuss. A bad flu was the prevailing sentiment. White House cabinet official Larry Kudlow told us the outbreak was “contained.”
In England the blowhard Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted on shaking hands with affected COVID-19 patients-and promptly got the disease. In America Vice President Mike Pence declared shaking hands was part of the American way and he continued for a time to do it. How cavalier most were.
The lack of preparation and insight into what was really happening was stunning, the greatest failure since 9/11. As New York governor Andrew Cuomo stated so well “Everybody was wrong about everything.” COVID-19 is just the latest example of wishful group thinking and a million will die.
We must do better.