March 16, 2021
A brief recap of early 2020 as I peek around the corner in 2021.
In February 2020, my son and his girlfriend, who live and work in Bangkok, Thailand, called to inform us of a virus outbreak in China. When my son called with the concerning news, I was reading David Quamann’s Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic about zoonotic diseases (diseases spread from animal to human).
That phone call was all it took for me to pay full attention and remain hyper alert for news out of China. My immediate anxiety was fed by my fascination with books, films, and documentaries of the pandemics of the past, disease, and outbreaks of deadly viruses. A decade prior, I’d read Richard Preston’s The Hot Zone and Jared Diamond’s Guns Germs & Steel. I was obsessed with documentaries on the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918. Like many others, I was convinced we were about to experience the first pandemic since 1918.
As news began trickling out of China, I grew more anxious. When brave Chinese doctors leaked reports to the world of their fears and the inability to contain the deadly virus, I knew we, citizens of the world, would be affected–our lives would never be the same. When those same doctors, COVID-19 martyrs to me, were detained and soon died of the disease, fear gripped my heart. Tragically, the virus was proven to be as deadly as they’d predicted and feared.
As news reports of infections began to surface in Europe, the UK, then Washington State and New York City, everything I’d read in the book Spillover became real, immediate, and terrifying. I called family begging them to prepare. I ordered face masks, disposable gloves, and bottles of hand sanitizer and spray bottles of Clorox.
Interesting note and proud Mom moment: In 2020, the Thai company my son works for, Open Dreams, won the annual MIT Solve Competition with their incredible and timely app called PODD, Participatory Onehealth Disease Detection, that specifically traces zoonotic diseases in animals throughout Thailand. Amazing~!
So, with my passion for history, reading diaries and journals written during the Spanish Flu of 1918, and my love of writing mixed with a fascination of the great pandemics of our world, I did what came naturally–at the end of March 2020, I began to chronicle my daily life in lockdown.
The end of March also marked the last time I hugged and kissed my daughter, my sister, and my nephew. We’d gathered at my sister’s home on a warm Spring day to enjoy a wonderful al fresco lunch on her sunny deck. I took a group photo to commemorate the day, unsure of what lay ahead.
The year 2020 will be long remembered.
I was vaccinated with the first vaccine in early March. My second vaccine is scheduled for March 30. I have no fear of these life-saving vaccines. I feel hopeful, for the first time in a long time. I can’t wait to hug my kids and loved ones!
My one regret…and it’s a huge regret that revisits me as we peek around the corner in 2021– Trump didn’t do what he should have done in regard to rushing the roll out of COVID-19 vaccinations across the nation. The unnecessary, tragic deaths of over five hundred thousand Americans weigh on my heart and they should weigh heavy on his mind and heart.
Stay well. Wear your mask. Practice safe distancing. Get your vaccines.
Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning novel, “A Decent Woman”, published by Winter Goose Publishing in 2019. Eleanor’s debut novel, set 1900 Puerto Rico, garnered awards at the 2016 and 2017 International Latino Book Awards. She is featured in the anthology, “Latina Authors and Their Muses”. Eleanor is working on her second novel “The Laments”, set in 1926 Puerto Rico. Her debut poetry collection, “Tight Knots. Loose Threads. Poems” is due for release in April 2021.
Eleanor is the mother of amazing adult children and currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia with her Chihuahua Sophie.