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Kevin J. O'Toole, the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is a former New Jersey State Senator. (Photo: Kevin J. O'Toole.)

The O’Toole Chronicles: Life Post-Pandemic

By Kevin O'Toole, March 16 2021 12:01 am

We have now existed in this Covid world for an entire year and many of us have managed to maintain some semblance of normalcy. I do not think we can even begin to formulate how we begin to explain this past year to generations to come. Years from now we will ask – how did we do it? Where would we even start?  Do we talk about the once unknown silent virus? The fear? The panic? The speculation? Being cut off from family and friends?  Our children learning remote and isolated? Loved ones being sent to hospitals all alone and dying? A virtual shutdown of economic activity? Spraying down Amazon boxes before bringing them in the house? Main streets looking like a ghost town? Watching the rapid development of vaccines?  Monitoring vaccination slots? Trying to recover? Any of it. How do you put it into words?

Of course, we have managed, but with a variety of issues. The continued operation in the virtual world has had a few challenges. The safety of family and co-workers has been a constant. The worry about retaining jobs, paying bills and the concern about businesses operating has been a paramount concern. The blurring of lines between work life and home life has presented a fair amount of challenges. For some it seems that the work day is longer. Working from home while trying to serve as teacher’s helper for the kids was a bit much. Dealing with sick relatives and close friends was/is perhaps the most difficult challenge.

Post pandemic, we soon will be able to look back and say how we did it.

The core of being who we are is that we are programmed to survive and we quickly learn to adapt and carry on. However, it has been some time since we have experienced the old normal. With that in mind, I thought it would be cool to start a list of things to do when we can.

The “old/new” normal:

  • Visit friends and relatives we haven’t seen in a year;
  • Make up with estranged relatives and friends you haven’t seen in years;
  • Go to a giant movie theater and see anything not on Netflix;
  • Volunteer at a food bank or hospital;
  • Do some charity for those less fortunate;
  • Go to a ball game or sporting event;
  • Fly to see friends and clients without worry or agenda;
  • Surprise someone who is a shut in and afraid to go out;
  • Take office colleagues/friends out for lunch or happy hour (instead of “virtual” happy hours);
  • Visit all the grave sites of those close ones who passed away and we couldn’t go to their funerals;
  • Walk around a mall and shop and buy something just because;
  • Tune out of politics 24/7 for a day or two and truly decompress;
  • Maybe make a list all the things you bought from Amazon in the last year. I guarantee this list will freak you out (For my daughter Ryan Marie — this includes endless CVS and Target purchases).
  • Be a little more kind and a little more grateful to those front line workers, including nurses and doctors and medical support staff, our brave police and fire professionals, food production and delivery personnel, transit and every day essential workers who kept the economy and region moving forward.

We take for granted this freedom to move about and do what we want when we want it, not any more.

As we start to finally pull out of this once in a lifetime pandemic, I hope we can all take stock in what we have and how lucky we are to have it.

Sometimes you appreciate more something you had only when it is lost, that might very well sum up our feelings on the one year anniversary of this once in a lifetime crisis.

It is time to start the journey back.

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