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OpinionEditorial

Time for joy and remembrance

A couple hugs as they watch fireworks over

A couple hugs as they watch fireworks over the New York Harbor on Tuesday. Credit: AP/Craig Ruttle

When New Yorkers were freed of most COVID-19 restrictions Tuesday, many of them burst forth into weather so extraordinary that it was hard not to sense fate in the perfect breeze.

Wednesday dawned just as gloriously.

With 70% of adults having received at least one vaccine dose and test-positivity numbers trending toward tiny, there is so much to celebrate, and mourn.

We have a lot of new heroes, and old ones newly noticed. They are health care workers and teachers, and restaurant and food-delivery staffs. They are scientists who developed vaccines, and unseen and unloved bureaucrats at every level of government who toiled to keep our communities as safe and provided for as possible.

They are volunteers who staffed food banks and patrons who donated to them, blood donors and election poll workers who risked illness to do their part, neighbors who made sure those nearby were safe or eased their isolation with a call, text or care package.

Remember all the drive-bys, the attempts to cheer others via previously unimaginable means. Remember the scheduled every-evening cacophonies of clanging and banging to acknowledge the awesome challenges front-line workers faced and overcame. And let’s not forget every parent and child who swallowed complaints and put on a brave face, every gripe left unsaid and rebellion against restrictions held in check.

We are striding forth into the sun now, but we mourn, too.

We lost 600,000 souls, very nearly the same number killed in the Civil War. It could have been far worse, and the fact that it was not is a testament to our science, our spirit of cooperation and our willingness to sacrifice. But the cost, in deaths and illness, has been tragic.

We also lost time, lost ceremonies that traditionally mark achievement, lost the fabric of our daily routines, and lost some of our innocence about the willingness of others to sacrifice for the greater good.

And now … what?

Many in our communities are still anxious, and may not want to give up masks or distance or the safe solitude of their isolation. That’s their right, and they're not wrong.

Many in our communities may keep the masks handy for trains and planes and schools even after those masking requirements are lifted, particularly if illness makes them more susceptible to COVID or less able to develop post-vaccine antibodies. And come next flu season, many more of us may remember an infection-free winter and go digging for our own masks once again.

We can live and let live. We can default to supportiveness, and reject scorn.

It is a time for joy and patience, kindness and resolve, mourning and regret, respect and admiration, and finally, hope. In truth, every time is a time for such things.

But this week brings a rare and unexpected gift: We seem to realize it.

Editorials are written by members of the editorial board, a group of opinion journalists whose views on the issues of the day reflect the longstanding values of Newsday.

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