Where were you on Wednesday, January 6, when the U.S. Capitol was breached by armed dissidents who happen to be our fellow citizens?
I was up, showered and dressed in time to watch the counting of the electoral votes, something I’d never viewed before. Just as the process began, I turned on the television. I turned it off 13 hours later, and staggered to my bed, stunned by all I had witnessed.
At 11:54 a.m. (PST) on Jan. 6, I texted my son to say, “Hope you have the news on. Thugs have breached the Capitol.” Later, I remembered that he also was my first phone call on the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. Another key global moment, long before I had a child, was Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.
These chilling events are prominent markers in our lives. We know where we were, and we will never forget.
Over the past few months, I’ve referred to the months and years before March 2020 as “The Before Times,” when many of us in the U.S. were still ignorant about COVID-19. Then, I had the great privilege of spending Thursday afternoons and evenings with my grandchild. Once a week, I gathered with three friends to play word games or attempt to learn mahjong. Routinely, I went to the theater, to baseball games and out for lunch or cocktails. Friends from across the country came to visit, and we toured my favorites spots in San Francisco.
Reflections on Life Since March 2020
By March 10, all that was over. Since then, with few exceptions, I’ve stayed home. At first, my circle of friends thought we’d be restricted for two, maybe three, months. We gamely learned to spray the mail with Lysol and to let packages sit for 24 to 48 hours before opening them. On rare trips to the grocery, we bought extra toilet paper or bags of flour or bottled water, whatever we feared most doing without. We perfected porch drop-offs on our friends’ birthdays and debated how to form limited “pods” based on the size of our social circles.
We washed our hands until our skin started to peel. We canceled previously imperative monthly haircuts and mani/pedis and we abandoned physical therapy appointments. We assembled mask wardrobes in case we needed to see the dermatologist or do our laundry in a communal space, we wondered why we’d ever thought we needed to enhance pale eyebrows and we abandoned dress pants. Some of us even apologized to lonely sweaters hanging in our closets.
We worked and socialized on line. We paid groceries to deliver our food. “Eating out” most often meant curbside pick-up at our favorite local eateries. We grandparents heard tales of woe from parents with youngsters now locked out of their schools and privately we wept because we couldn’t step in to help.
As the months dragged on, some early precautions were deemed unnecessary and some new restrictions were imposed. Small businesses closed and large ones resorted to communicating with customers via online “chats” with ignorant bots. Restaurants and specialty food stores closed. Neighborhood shops begged us to help them, and we did, but so many ended up shuttered anyway.
Countless people across the country lost their jobs, their homes, their food security — and many lost their health and even their lives. As of Jan. 10, more than 22,100,000 cases of the coronavirus have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and 371,084 people in the U.S. have died of the terrifying disease. We’ll likely never know the exact numbers, because many early cases were tagged as bouts of pneumonia or the flu. Also, at one point the President ruled that hospitals were not to report cases or deaths to the CDC because the numbers made him look bad.
Hope for "The After Times" Now Recedes
Because of all that, right up to Jan. 5, I was eager to get vaccinated and looked forward to “The After Times” with hope. Then, on Jan. 6, I chose to bear witness to everything that unfolded in Washington, D.C. Now, four days later, I find that those startling images of domestic terrorists invading the U.S. Capitol have suppressed some of that hope.
In news articles I’ve read, some members of the mob said they had no recourse, because no one listens to them or their concerns. Some of them said they wanted to see Mike Pence hanged. Some of them said that in spite of no evidence whatsoever they still believe the election was “stolen.” We know that with help from Russia, the 2016 election was stolen, yet those of us who were upset about the outcome did not take up weapons and storm the Capitol.
What we don’t know yet is how to fully process what happened Jan. 6 because it's far too soon to have a full perspective. Eventually, the truth behind the many systemic failures that made the attack possible will be uncovered. Assessments will be made and the events will be recorded in history, and I look forward to reading how the events of that day are presented.
Meanwhile, figurative storm clouds are gathering and more violence is predicted. Wherever you may be over the next 10 days — stay safe. “The After Times” aren’t here yet.