I have been falling down the social media rabbit hole a lot. I moderate what I take in according to what I feel like it’s doing to my blood pressure--some things make me too angry to process, others lift my mood, but their all on the same stream so I have to learn to filter, unfollow, sometimes I let things in that I shouldn’t because I feel like I have to know how crazy people are out there. I have engaged with the plethora of riddles and word problems my friends are posting, just to have some form of interaction (and to please my inner middle school Mathlete). I do my best to source check anything before I accept it as a news source, but I do allow my social circle to help me curate which news I seek out.
Today’s gem was Miss Tabitha Brown and her Carrot Bacon. We are the proud new owners of an air fryer, and I think Facebook Knows. This video came across my feed and made me laugh with pure delight. It also made me curious--as a vegetarian who loves the smell and crunch and melt-in-your-mouthness of bacon, the idea of something that gave me even half of that… and that I could make in this snazzy new air fryer… I was in. Next time I go to the store, you can bet I’m getting carrots, maple syrup, liquid smoke, and the spices on her list! She made it look so good… fingers crossed that it goes better than the Dalgona Coffee Experiment.
Today’s black hole, was surpassing 40,000 US deaths. These numbers bounce around in my head, roll down my spine, and rattle like painful rocks in my shoes. I am fortunate, thus far, that no one in my immediate world is among them. The same is no longer true of second and third degree relationships: friends of family, friends of friends, coworkers of people I know… I have enough friends in places that are current hotspots or growing hotspots, that I cannot expect this to remain true. We have gone from 10K to 40K in less than two weeks. Today was the first time that I remember seeing the percentage of cases newly listed as “recovered” as being higher than new deaths--I try to hold onto this.
I measure this day with perspective. As we surpass 40,000 US deaths and approach (or pass, depending on where you may be) the mark of one month in quarantine; as healthy people in quarantine begin to fatigue in our collective efforts to do our parts by social distancing and staying home, there is something else happening too. We have reached the point where the number is hard to comprehend. If we are lucky enough not to have felt the direct impact of one of these deaths or illnesses, it is increasingly difficult to comprehend the impact. In some ways, a smaller number of deaths is easier to identify with and mourn, fear, or react too. This feels especially clear to me on this date, which has been seared into my memory since I was in middle school.
It was on April 19, 1993 that fires ended the months-long siege at the Branch Davidian complex. And two years later, on this day, Timothy McVay linked that event and anniversary of the start of the American Revolutionary War 220 years earlier, to his attack on the federal building in Oklahoma City. These tragedies both included the deaths of children, which made them more immediately accessible to my young mind. These were not abstract concepts of war in far away places, these were Kids Like Me, in my own country. My teachers used it as a teaching moment, encouraging us to look for times and ways that history impacted the present, to look for the connections and patterns. My brain latched onto the specific date of April 19th as a touchstone, a date to watch the news, a kind of litmus test for Where Are We In History Today. A few years later, in 1999, I remember telling my best friends I had a bad feeling, and to watch the news. I went to bed uneasy, and woke the following day to the Columbine Massacre. I never sorted out what to feel about that sense of abstract dread being met by something so dreadful.
That these three mass killings occurred on essentially the same date, were anchored to history, and all occurred in my formative years, has granted them an elevated presence in my consciousness. I don’t think a year will ever go by that this date doesn’t rattle me. This year, as I think about the collective outrage and grief spilled by this country for these 259 deaths, I am aware that they felt so specific. Perhaps it is that they all died as a result of violence, but I feel that it is also that if you put all of their faces up on your computer screen, especially if split into the three events, you could still see People.
As the number of COVID-19 deaths soar past 41,000 the number is too high to comprehend. It is diffuse because of the incomprehensible number, and because it has happened over days, weeks, months. To try to find perspective, to make it specific and concrete, I have started looking at venue capacities. As of tonight, the US alone has lost as many people as fill Madison Square Garden--TWICE. We have lost this iconic venue filled to capacity, twice, Zero Survivors. Or. More than 13 times as many as died during the 9/11 attacks. That day changed this world indelibly. For better or for worse, there was no return to Before--it has become impossible to expect a Getting Back To Normal after this. While I shelter in place, and extend my gratitude to essential workers, and health care workers, and stay at homers, and researchers, and try to stay grounded, this kind of perspective is useful to me. I try to live in my own skin, safe at home, checking on those I love, but it is hard not to let thoughts of those we lose haunt me.