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Through the Lens: A Year in a Bottle

By Chuck Clegg - | Jun 23, 2021

In recent weeks I have begun to hear a collective sigh of relief around our country. The once impossible thought that we, not only as communities, or even the world, would experience an event so consuming, it will now become a painful chapter in future history books. The evening news cast for over a year began and ended with the day’s events surrounding the pandemic. Headlines in newspapers and television broadcasts gave us updated numbers on those with the Covid-19 virus and those who had been taken. Worldwide the numbers were staggering.

I began thinking, what if I wrote a message to a future generation. Next, I would place it in a bottle and toss it into the ocean of time. At some far distant point in time, it was found and those reading my words would know how I personally experienced the 2020 Pandemic. My fears and losses. What I would tell them of how it affected my life. History books will tell the big story of how it affected countries and the world. But my words inside the bottle would tell the story of my world and my family. I realized over the last 15 months I have told parts of my story. I followed the rules and stayed home as much as possible. Mary stayed home for much of the early pandemic but returned to work late last summer. We wore our masks, sanitized our hands and surroundings and did whatever we needed to stay healthy. But with that said, we still contracted the virus in late November.

I got to thinking about all the people who had no choice but to go to work and do their jobs. People’s whose jobs affected those around them in many different ways. Those in the medical field whose jobs places them in harm’s way every day. Before January 2020, they had not even heard of the Coronavirus and its impact on public health. Those whom we depend on to be the first to respond when we need help. They must surely wondered if the next call was going to expose them to this new threat. And would they carry this disease home to family? Towns cannot shut down and wait for the danger to pass. In fact, in times like this they must step up and give leadership to it citizens. Even though the town is going into isolation, there are those who disregarded their health and committed crimes. Law enforcement and the judicial system must continue to do their jobs.

Perhaps one of the more difficult positions to have been in, is an educator. It is natural for each of us to be concerned about ourselves, but it is also well known we put the safety and wellbeing of our children above all else. Our basic education system in this country is like placing our children on an elevator with 12 floors. As children progress in their studies, the elevator will carry them onto the next level of education. At the end of the year, they move to the next level. When they enter high school, students begin planning for their future. A neat and orderly education progression toward life after high school. But last year that education elevator began stopping, starting and even shutting down. After years of moving from level to level with their education, things changed in their young lives. Administrators and educators were frustrated trying to figure what steps to take in order to keep kids learning. Their choices were, in class learning, remote or some combination of the two. Classes over the internet or phones, could be a challenge. Some kids live in areas where reliable internet service did not work. And for those kids who attended classrooms studies, social distancing guidelines and mask requirements needed to be addressed. And let’s face it, everybody had an opinion as to how to handle these issues thus creating conflict.

The Governor and his task force gave guidelines to local health departments who passed them on. Those daily guidelines gave exact guidance on every aspect of managing the crisis for communities and public schools. Well…maybe. For every directive from Charleston came the task of administering every aspect of those guidelines based on a color coded map of the state. Easier said than done. And for those of us who live along the border to Ohio, we wondered why just across the river they operated under different guidelines.

Over the coming weeks my columns will contain those messages in a bottle I told you about. I have asked individuals whose careers and lives were affected by last year’s events how they were touched by the virus. How they handled personal challenges, family crisis and finding the ways to do their jobs when there is no guide book. In next month’s columns, I will let individuals whose jobs placed them on the front lines of this crisis tell you about the past year. We will begin with a man I have known over the last few years. He will tell us about his experiences during this time. That man is Mr. Ed Toman, Superintendent of Wetzel County Schools. Next week, we will together look at the past year Through the Lens.