I remember this feeling of uncertainty quite well. Our kids were in grade school when 9/11 occurred. Like many, I spent the drive home trying to make sense of what was happening. Is this the end? Is this the new normal? Will life exist tomorrow? I remember having to take pause and put on a brave face for my kids, so my fear did not make their fears worse. Then I drove by the fire station and saw a volunteer firefighter washing a fire engine. Amid all that uncertainty, a volunteer firefighter reminded me by washing a fire engine that we are still here. The skies were so quiet, and I found myself longing for the sound of a noisy jet flying over to re-center what had been my norm. The quiet skies for weeks proved we could make it, and we were still here.
The first five days after the news broke about the Coronavirus, I will admit even I had a few moments of anxiety. Surprisingly, I never thought my moment of doubt would be related to not finding toilet paper on the shelves. I never thought the negative psychological impact of seeing empty shelves in the grocery store would have such a profound feeling of uncertainty upon me. This time was different because my kids were young adults. I sat down with my family and discussed my anxiety, and we discussed the next steps to make sure we had a clear picture of what was likely to happen with the Coronavirus.
In 30 years of public safety, I have learned to seek out data and facts to form sound decisions. I spoke to fire officials in New York who reported stability and the food chain starting to stabilize. Facebook is not a valid source of facts and data. There, everyone’s account of what is happening is skewed to the point of view of the author who wrote it. But consider this; we are still here. The fire department, paramedics, nurses, doctors, store clerks, gas station clerks, supply services, semi drivers, police officers, emergency managers, dispatchers, and on and on I could go, are still here. This is what we do when uncertainty creeps in. These moments are when we are at our best. Can you even imagine being a first responder and entering a home with a patient who has a fever and is coughing? We still do, and we are still here.
The 15-day plan to reduce the virus spread is based upon sound logic. I am embarrassed to say, hand sanitizing, wiping down surfaces, and cleaning our vehicles are all probably something we should have been more vigorous about before a global pandemic occurred.
I have seen many modified human behaviors since these unprecedented steps were put in place. The initial anxiety-causing event has happened, our lives are changed, our stores are restocking, and our community is still here. Now is the time we take pause and figure out the next steps based on data and fact.
The facts tell us this virus will continue until warmer weather occurs. The data suggests many people recover from symptoms. The trends indicate as more test kits come out, we will see higher infection numbers. I am also of the belief the FDA will announce some success in treatment very soon. We are far from over in dealing with this virus but our reaction to what is next will define our community. When an event like 9/11, disasters, or even a pandemic occurs, it should cause us to stop for a second and think about what is truly important. I value a conversation with my family a lot more than I did two weeks ago. I appreciate an American flag blowing in the breeze, and I value a walk outside. All these things should have been higher up on my priority list.
Don’t panic until we are not here … but because we are here, all will be well.
Chief Ray Reynolds currently serves as the fire chief in Nevada, Iowa. Before that, Chief Reynolds served from 2010 to 2013 as the 13th State Fire Marshal for the State of Iowa. Chief Reynolds works part-time as a firefighter/critical care paramedic in the nearby community of Bondurant and serves a board member for the IAFC’s Fire & Life Safety Section. Chief Reynolds has been a member of the fire service for 31 years.