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Editorial: What a Difference Two Weeks Makes

Written By Editor on 3/18/20 | 3/18/20

Just two weeks ago, the members of the Middleburgh school board were debating whether to cancel the History's Club's trip to Spain. Just 12 days later, the trip was not only canceled, but school will be closed for at least two weeks. In the beginning of March, some people scoffed at the precautions being taken calling the Coronavirus a "glorified flu." Now, on March 18, the country's borders are closed. Restaurants and bars are shuttered except for take out. The county office building, town and villages offices, and churches are closed. Almost all events, meetings, concerts, dinners, and school sports, have been canceled or postponed.
The world is a very different place.
I was speaking to my sister from Long Island this afternoon and we were talking about precedents for what we are all now going through and will be going through for the foreseeable future. There are few, thankfully. I remembered the shock and aftermath of 9-11. No flights for five days. Colleges shut down. No sports for about two weeks. A mini stock market crash. We knew there would be a response from our federal government against the possible culprits. No one knew if there would be further attacks and airport and sports stadium screening was forever changed. The cleanup in New York City, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania took months. The effects were country-wide but more localized to the regions struck by the terrorists. People came together as never before. American flags were flown proudly. We eventually found out who our enemies were and they were punished.
Unlike 9-11, we cannot just "punish" our enemy and declare victory against the Coronavirus. We do not know yet how to combat this virus that started in China at the end of December.
We spoke about World War II. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, car production stopped and rationing began. Gas, tires, milk, sugar, meat, coffee, and other essentials were in short supply. In Harlem, my father owned a green 1939 two-door Plymouth which he waxed and was very proud of. He had to sell it to a "Fifth Avenue doctor" during the war because he could not get tires for it. People began to grow "victory gardens."  The country came together as it has just over 20 years before in the "War to End All Wars." We knew the enemies, Germany, Japan, and for a while, Italy. We banded together, crossing sex and racial lines, sacrificed at home and abroad, and eventually defeated our enemies. We celebrated throughout the country on V-E Day in May, 1945, and then again on V-J Day three months later.
It wasn't global, country or even state-wide, but one other similar event was the flood of August 2011. Those of us in the Schoharie Valley, Margaretville, Windham, and Phoenicia prepared for the worst. The storm was supposed to make landfall over Long Island go east of our region.It didn't. It shifted west and up the center of the state. Tannersville, the origin of the Schoharie Creek got about 19 inches of rain. Those who lived through it all know the story. The panic when we thought the Gilboa Dam had given way. The shock at the destruction in our villages. The mounds of garbage in front of home and businesses in downtown Middleburgh and Schoharie. National Guard troops and vehicles driving down Main Street in Schoharie. The water quickly subsided, but the damage remained. More than 80 percent of the home and businesses in the Village of Schoharie had more than six feet of water in them. The cleanup and restoration was immense. A mild winter helped ease the task, but the work continued for months. Even today, some homes and businesses are still damaged.
The region got help from throughout the state and beyond. Volunteers came from all areas to help muck out basements, remove wet drywall, and repairing what the flood wrought. The work was arduous and exhausting, but we all came together and persevered. The Schoharie Valley, Margaretville, Windham, and other areas hard hit by the flood waters shine even brighter today because of the work done by the residents and volunteers.
Though our enemy is much more nebulous and undefined, we once again are called to sacrifice for the greater good. We will be working from home, not eating at our favorite restaurants, or going to our favorite bars. We will be "hunkering down" for the next month or longer. But, just like before, we will come together and defeat our enemy. Instead of bullets, bombs, or hard work, we may come up with a vaccine or antidote that will defeat the Coronavirus. The battle will be a long and hard one, but we have been through tough times before, and, as before, we will not only survive, but in the end, prosper.

David Avitabile

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