Tragedy has a unique place in history.
We’re all born with an abundance of inherited sadness.
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Family tales of woe take on a mythology all their own and become urgent questions: were you when the tornado hit? Where were you when this happened? Where were you when that happened?
All this comes to mind as the two-year anniversary of the Last Good Day approaches as it is the eve of the somewhat unofficial start of the still ongoing pandemic.
The Last Good Day was coined by writers who settled on March 13, 2020 as the day when things were last normal. That would be Sunday this year, with the following day being the start of lockdowns and restrictions and everything else we’ve grown accustomed to over the last two years.
It has become this generation’s JFK moment or my generation’s space shuttle. Or maybe it is none of those things.
In many ways, both large and small, the country, the state, the community, all seem intent on moving on.
Yet, the pandemic hasn’t.
The death toll, as of Tuesday, has reached an astronomical 10,760 and 11,000 is in sight. Perhaps, the state will hit that grim milestone on Monday, it would be, maybe, poetic in a macabre kind of way.
The state’s Covid cemetery is larger than Camden’s 10,612, and would make it Arkansas’s 37th largest city.
As a country, a year ago 100,000 deaths was pronounced an “unthinkable tragedy” and a year later the death toll is nearly 10 times that. So what is that called, “a return to normal”?
But here, the final toll is yet to be known.
If you look at the forecast numbers from the Centers for Disease Control, they’re well past bleak, as seen below.
Top line forecasts now call for more than 13,000 deaths in Arkansas. That would be like removing the city of Harrison, population 13,069, from the map.
In terms of death, the ongoing pandemic is far and away the state’s largest mass casualty event.
The closest comparisons now are war deaths.
According to the U.S. Army Center of Military History, 3,814 Arkansans died in World War II with 409 dying in Korea and 397 dead in Vietnam. Those 4,620 dead are barely a third of the Covid deaths.
The only thing left is the Civil War.
The Encyclopedia of Arkansas called it, “one of the greatest disasters in Arkansas history. More than 10,000 Arkansans — black and white, Union and Confederate — lost their lives.”
Yet, all that death and there’s a desperation, among some, to forget and move on.
Maybe world events will eclipse the Covid pandemic in the history books. Ground wars in Europe have a way of doing that but, it is strange to at least not come to terms with our collective grieving.
If you don’t want to get sick and die, there’s some things you can do:
Wear a mask