The Column with Simone B. Michielen: Remember the year 2020? A short story for my unborn grandchildren

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It was the year that started of normal, but soon the world was shaken by an unknown enemy, a virus called COVID-19. The people didn’t believe this could happen to them, and as they always did, they ignored the signs… It backfired. The situation ran out of control. People who thought they just had a common cold were taken to the hospital and were treated for something the doctors didn’t have a treatment for.

People died, alone. Every government started its own remedy. The politicians wanted to show how strong they were in their leadership and started to speak with loud voices how to deal with this invisible invasion. Advised by a scientist who didn’t know everything, but were supposed to come with an instant solution. We were not allowed on the streets anymore, borders were closed, travel restrictions common good. Shops closed, restaurants and bars too. Our social life became zero and we had to spend all our time inside.

Hard times. But the good part was the solidarity. The doctors, nurses, facilitating staff, they were all called heroes and from our houses, balconies and roofs we applauded and cheered for them. Neighbours looked after each other, food was served to all the people who needed it or worked in public services. We realised they were the ones there for us.

And then, relieve! The summer came and we were allowed to travel again. No, the virus was not gone and not even under control, but… Yes, but what? I still don’t have the answer to that question. But we had a good summer. We learned more about the beauty of our own country and man, how we enjoyed our freedom again! As if nothing ever happened.

You must realise, that in general we were all spoiled. Life was good to most people and we had a lot of time to complain about unimportant things. There was a small group of very rich people that became richer every year and on the other hand a group of very poor people which situation got worse every year too. But the majority was living a good life, especially in Europe. Enough jobs, open borders, holidays, stuffed shops where we could by anything we wanted. Plenty of everything. We used the finest ingredients and went to restaurants to eat the most exclusive food you can think of.  Can you imagine how we felt when that was taken from us? It felt so unfair! Especially when it started again.

After the summer holidays, when autumn came, the virus was back. You might think we had learned and were prepared, but no. During our happy summer we all ignored the warnings, and thought it would probably disappear the same way it came. It didn’t. More deaths, more measures, and what was the worst, more intolerance among people. Suddenly the people who worked in hospitals and as policemen were not our heroes anymore, they became the ones to blame. Divide and conquer, that is what seemed the tactics of some and it worked, I am sad to say.

After the summer holidays, when autumn came, the virus was back. You might think we had learned and were prepared, but no. During our happy summer we all ignored the warnings, and thought it would probably disappear the same way it came. It didn’t. More deaths, more measures, and what was the worst, more intolerance among people. Suddenly the people who worked in hospitals and as policemen were not our heroes anymore, they became the ones to blame. Divide and conquer, that is what seemed the tactics of some and it worked, I am sad to say.

But here we are, now, years later. Looking back, I am kind of thankful for the wake-up call we had in 2020. But remember that our personal situation was privileged, it was not as bad as some others were experiencing. In our family we all had a comfortable home and were able to keep our jobs and income and even help other people. And we survived, like many others did and a lot unfortunately did not. I am so happy that by the end of the year 2020 we realised that solidarity was our cure. Not only with people, but also with the earth. This kind of dark grey page in our recent history gave us strength to start new, with respect for each other and nature. We decided to share our wealth and started to invest in people who were less fortunate. We opened the borders and our hearts again and decided to be different and trust again. Because that is what was needed, a decision to be kind, made by every individual.