Not since 9/11 has New York or the world been so shocked but this too shall pass and our ingenuity will overcome COVID-19.
As long as I have lived, I never thought I'd see a worse event than 9/11. The only thing that came remotely close was a major earthquake when I was living in San Francisco back in the early 1980s. The very ground under my feet seemed to give way, buildings rocked, and people fled or cowered in doorways.
But it was over in a few moments and normality soon restored.
9/11 was no sudden and quick event. That day I watched from the roof of my apartment building as a massive grey and black cloud drifted across lower Manhattan and the unthinkable unfolded.
What if that cloud was from some nuclear device that had just exploded? What if this was the end of everything I loved, cherished and cared for in my life?
Suddenly the very foundation of my life seemed to tremble and shatter.
For years after, even down to today, 9/11 scarred us. “If you see something, say something” became the watchword. Terrorists were among us and every visit to an airport, every walk through Penn Station has ever since had an extra tinge of danger.
Suddenly our country was at war in Afghanistan and Iraq, two wars that cost thousands of American lives and trillions of dollars. The repercussions have lasted to this day.
The coronavirus took a much different approach coming into our lives. There was no ground-shaking earthquake or big explosive moment when landmark buildings collapsed and people fled for their lives.
Rather there was the quiet prelude, a distant report of a new kind of flu virus in China, nothing too much to worry about at first. After all, there had been similar reports in the recent past all of which caused only minor disruption. A flu shot appeared to take care of the worst of them.
But then came the enemy within.
It started not with an explosion but rather a cough, a temperature, a tightness in the chest. First, there were dozens falling ill, then hundreds and thousands, and then, like a runaway train, it was out of control.
Once the Chinese failed to contain the virus it began its merciless track, a hidden enemy that suddenly began to show up not on a battlefield but in sick people in Asia, then the rest of the world.
Cue action stations and panic, and suddenly a fully-fledged world crisis the likes of which the world had not seen since the pandemic Spanish flu of 1918.
Now I find myself marooned at home in Long Island, instead of in our Manhattan office planning the future for our publications the Irish Voice, IrishCentral.com and Irish America magazine, a helpless onlooker as global events unfold from the deep and terrible trauma in Italy to the battle for proper resources in New York and the other states fill the TV screens.
We are all in danger to a lesser or greater extent, the older folk especially as the virus bears down.
But I think back to 9/11 and the most important lessons I took away. This too will pass, perhaps the most important.
The second is that we need to stand by each other and keep the country we love safe from this pestilence that has now come among us.
And finally, that American ingenuity that has led the world for so long -- think Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Google -- can once again come forth in the medical field and find a drug or vaccine that destroys this faceless enemy.