OpEd: Have Some Respect

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Day after day, it seems like politicians have been analyzing the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic to the 9/11 terror attacks, which killed a combined 2,997 people in New York City, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

But the comparison is simply unacceptable. How is a plague similar to a terrorist attack? What makes it OK for politicians like New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy to bring back memories of the most terrifying day in American history?

Did a plague destroy almost 3,000 lives in the matter of hours? No. But the idea is to make people understand the seriousness of COVID-19.

Surgeon General Vice Admiral Jerome Adams even said, “This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment, only it’s not going to be localized, it’s going to be happening all over the country and I want America to understand that.” The outlandish statement is offensive to not only New Yorkers, but to all victims of terrorist attacks. It shows that the people in charge do not understand what 9/11 was or its significance.
What good does it do to compare the pandemic with 9/11? What can a politician get out of making such an atrocious comparison? What makes people think that comparing a pandemic to the worst terrorist attack in America’s history is a good idea?

Simply put, there are other ways to compare a plague rather than creating an incredible sense of unwanted nostalgia for families that have suffered for roughly two decades. There is a fine line of making people aware of what is happening and separating it from recent events that might trigger post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

If Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and an advisor to President Donald Trump, said we can see anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 deaths due to the coronavirus, why do politicians have the need to compare each “milestone” of the disease to tragic events in American history?

A plague doesn’t kill people overnight. It takes days, weeks and months, which means creating more trauma on top of the anxiety that has already been sitting in the minds of Americans is just wrong. There’s no way around it.

The COVID-19 pandemic is not the same as a terrorist attack, and it shouldn’t be treated as such. From a mental standpoint, it disrupts the focus on the coronavirus and it creates an unwanted nostalgia. Are we so far removed from September 11th, 2001 that it’s OK to compare a disease to a well-organized, well-planned attack on America’s freedom? The answer is no, and it will be always be no.

The coronavirus does not intentionally attack specific groups of people. It has no motive. It does not have a mind. What it does have is a sense of panic and death, but it is a terrorist of a different kind.

A week before the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I spent almost two hours sitting outside of Seaford High School’s 9/11 memorial with Tom Condon, founder of the Seaford 9/11 Memorial Committee. Condon told me about each individual from Seaford who died on that day, in more detail than one can imagine. And that’s when I realized nothing will ever compare to that day.

The coronavirus needs to be taken seriously, but please, for the respect of those who gave up their lives on 9/11, stop comparing a virus to the worst day in America.

—Joseph Wolkin

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