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Opinion: The reality of 2020 will continue to sink in

I cannot escape my feelings of resentment for what we went through as a country in 2020: the pandemic, the downturn in the economy, the political unrest — so many heavy burdens.

And I try not to think about how much of it was preventable, or to what extent its severity could have been dulled, but I am angry — about all of it. I suspect it will take some time for me to move past the notion of what could have been and focus my recollection on the people that led us through it all.

And for me, no one deserved more of that focus than our healthcare workers, policemen, EMTs and firefighters. The heroic service they provided this country in our dark and most uncertain hours of need leave me humbled and speechless. I cannot write words that adequately reflect my admiration and appreciation.

My brother-in-law is an emergency room physician at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany. Early on, that area saw more COVID cases per capita than most places in the world. While he was working back-to-back shifts, I was on a family group text scrambling to find him PPE. We were worried that he would run out and would soon be treating COVID patients without any protection against the virus. It was a helpless feeling.

I will never forget a picture my sister-in-law sent the family a few weeks later. He was laying on the floor, curled up in a ball with a blanket over him. He had just finished a string of 10 hour shifts and only stopped to sleep because sleep meant more energy for more shifts. This was the story for thousands of healthcare workers in 2020.

I will also remember how we as a community rallied behind small businesses, restaurants in particular, and collectively considered creative ways to support them and keep their lights on. We ordered delivery when a PB&J would have done just fine. We bought gift cards we didn’t really need. We tipped more than was our custom. And I am so proud of you all for that.

And our children.

What can I say?

It seems ancient history that the graduating high school class of 2020 canceled spring break trips, prom, their entire spring sports programs and graduation ceremonies. It hurts to know how memorable these moments in time are for the rest of us, and that they will never know them for themselves.

My much younger children became fluent in the necessities of mask wearing, washing hands, avoiding crowded spaces and in so many other lessons that were painful to watch them learn.

They grew up before my eyes, overnight, with a kind of maturity I didn’t expect. My oldest put off kindergarten this fall, something she had so looked forward to, and never once offered a single complaint. She displayed an understanding of the moment wise beyond her years. Bless her for that gift she gave her mother and me.

As for us, your local community newspaper, we hung in there. We went remote like so many others early on and figured it out. We focused on getting through each week. We walked the fine line that so many other small businesses did of sacrificing what we could, but never sacrificing who we are.

Our staff showed resilience that frankly, I desperately needed, both then and now. I will be forever thankful for their efforts to keep us moving forward this year.

Most of our 28 newspaper delivery folks work multiple part time jobs and saw much of their income under attack when companies started scaling back. They are a resilient bunch I have deep admiration for.

Our newsroom and production team went remote and had to instantly adjust to covering and producing the news in both a COVID and Zoom world — either one of which would have been enough on their own to throw the news industry on its head. But they adjusted, kept their heads down, and focused on the core of our mission: delivering news that our readers need to know to stay informed and especially this year, safe.

Our marketing and advertising department, which generate the funds necessary for this free newspaper company to exist, worked wonders in figuring out how to both continue to support our local business partners that needed us now more than ever, and to generate the income necessary we needed to pay our own bills. After all, we are a small business, too, that was suddenly hurting just like everyone else.

And Kimberly, our advertising assistant and one of our dearest employees, lost her dad to COVID early in the pandemic. We grieved with her and I watched in awe as she showed amazing grace and grit throughout. She took care of her girls and her mom while also taking care of us and returning to work as soon as she could.

As we crawl toward 2021, I pray for renewed faith. In our institutions, in science, and more simply in each other. That what we remember about 2020 is that, collectively, we dealt with whatever came our way, together.

We are always stronger, together.

I am so proud to call you our readers, our critics, and our biggest supporters. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping us make it through a really hard year. I’ll never forget it.

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