Though I am not largely a former history teacher, I still read quite a lot on that subject. This includes military history. In fact, I just finished Erik Larson’s circumscribed biography of Winston Churchill and Hugh Ambrose’s “The Pacific.” Both were informative and worth the read. I actually struggle a bit with military history because I can’t make head nor tails of maps. While everybody else in the room can instantly see the strategic significance of Mt. Suribachi, I’m still trying to figure out what that little caret sign on one end of the island is supposed to mean. I’m more into the psychological and cultural effects of warfare, anyway.
Given that, I often notice that a particular phenomenon among soldiers, marines, etc. that is referred to in many histories. Once these warriors begin to see, even in the distance, the approaching end of the conflict, they become more prudent, not wanting to die or receive some horrific wound when peace is close at hand. I once met my father’s B-17 crew members at an informal routine and they recalled the shooting down of an American bomber by a lucky shot from a Wehrmacht soldier just days before VE day. The profound sense of loss, and waste, was genuine and palpable, even those many decades after the fact and even though they knew no one on that plane. Somehow suffering a loss with the end so near is harder than when still in a conflict with no end in sight.
Which is where many people find themselves in regard to the Covid-19 pandemic. I’ve been quarantined from some of my grandchildren, which I find very difficult as nine months turns to 10, but what seems even worse is being a vector of transmission for them when vaccination needles are piercing arms just across town, when there is at last a light at the end of the tunnel. I have heard dozens of stories with the same lament. Everybody wants this thing over but with viral mutations on the rise and active cases rising in other states, we’re all trying to hold out just a bit longer so everything we’ve done up to now isn’t wasted through a slip-up this late in the game. We’re craving that lovely needle prick.
And as a community and school district and a society, we’re waiting for herd immunity, which according to Dr. Hilary Rockwell, Chief Medical Officer for Avera-McKennan and stalwart godsend for locals trying to make decisions based upon the best evidence possible, will be reached at somewhere between 70 and 80 percent.
When this article appears in the Mitchell Republic, I have no idea what that percentage will actually be in our community, or our state, or our nation. What I do know is that hypodermics are flying and every day brings us closer to that magic number when social distancing can end and masks can be reserved for Halloween. Every day brings us closer.
I know that many of our students and, though to a lesser extent, even our faculty and staff are experiencing genuine fatigue with the realities of this pandemic and the precautions we have had to take in the face of it and the resulting governmental mandates. I know this impatience, even exasperation for some, becomes harder and harder to endure.
But here’s my request: endure it a bit longer.
These precautions are what, according to the best medical opinions offered to us, are keeping school open and activities, well, active. It is my fervent hope that the end will come in time for prom and commencement and the many other hallmarks of the school year and the capstones of the high school graduate. Sticking with it is our best chance of keeping this lion at bay until the modern-day Edward Jenners can finally domesticate and defang it.
As bad as the fourth quarter of last year was — with schools physically closed and extracurriculars cancelled wholesale — how much worse would it feel now or at any point between now and the school year’s end?