Where Were You When?

Most people can point to a large, singular historical event that occurred during their lifetime.

Often, peers and those of a similar age might ask “Where were you when x-event happened?”

A big event in my life was undoubtedly the fall of the Berlin Wall. However, I was too young to know it was occurring or remember the adults in my life responding to it.

Probably the biggest world event in my lifetime was the September 11 terrorist attacks.

I was thirteen years old when two planes were flown into the Twin Towers in New York City. However, at the time, I was a few days into a three week school camp. As such, I didn’t get to see the news and television coverage or see the newspaper reporting that surrounded such a historical and devastating event.

By the time I returned home from camp, much of the reporting around 9/11 in Australia had diminished. While it was by no means forgotten, I couldn’t experience the constant, sometimes confused and frantic coverage that it received immediately following the tragedy.

Enter: COVID-19.

It has struck me that I am now living through such an event that I would usually only read about in history books.

I have never lived through a world war, a recession or any other long term tragic event. I have read about many of them though and, even as a teenager, I would try to imagine what it must have been like for people to be hiding in their homes during an air raid or to be lining up for food during the Depression. I have a fairly extensive imagination but it was something I always struggled to imagine.

And now, you and I are all living through such an event.

I am now working from home, but during my last week in the office, myself and my colleagues were crowded around a television (1.5m apart) watching a press conference with the Prime Minister as he announced new measures to reduce the spread of the virus. A few nights later, Poopsie and I sat watching another press conference, quite late at night, on our couch.

During both, I felt quite emotional and shocked and surprised that this was happening in my country. That my fellow Australians were lining up around the block to sign up for welfare payments so they can keep their families fed and sheltered. That over and over again, the politicians and the medical staff are telling us that life as we have known it is over.

Poopsie and I, and our families, are incredibly privileged and lucky. So far, everyone we are close to have been able to keep their jobs. None of our family risk losing a home or being unable to put food on the table. We are incredibly lucky. We know this and we know that many people, worldwide, are suffering and struggling through this pandemic.

But despite knowing how lucky we are, I also couldn’t help but note that this has made me anxious, worried and many times quite emotional. What will our world look like in six months time? A year?

This post doesn’t have a neat conclusion with some sort of epiphany I’ve had. There hasn’t been any profound realisation for me, more the realisation that we are not in control of what happens in our world and that scary times do come. If I am scared even with all the privilege and resources I have access to, how must those who have lost everything be feeling?

I truly can’t even imagine.

How have you personally reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic? Have you been surprised by your reaction? I’d love to hear how you’ve responded in the comments section below!

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