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Opinion | “Heroes work here”

How do we come together when we have to stay 6 feet apart? Handshakes may be a thing of the past? Hugs, even with close friends, off limits.

Oh, this won’t last forever. This we know. Because nothing lasts forever. It may last a while, though. Quite a while.

During this time, we come together by recognizing the heroes. Of course the doctors, nurses, and support staffs at our hospitals are right on the front lines. They’ve been getting sick, too, as they treat and serve the COVID-19 victims. Some will lose their lives.

I drive to my undisclosed location on UAB’s campus to run my classes, and I pass the front of UAB Highlands Hospital. “Heroes Work Here,” the sign says. It’s the same in front of St. Vincent’s Hospital. “Heroes Work Here.”

How about the grocery workers, keeping shelves stocked as well as they can so we have access to food and checking out the brave souls to go into the store to buy life’s necessities? At all the grocery stores, big and small, men and women are exposing themselves to an invisible killer virus to make sure we have access to most of what we need.

Heroes Work Here.

I’m not sure how he does it, but the man who runs our little neighborhood convenience stores knows how to get products. When everybody was searching for masks and hand sanitizer, that little market had masks and sanitizer. When we were wondering where the heck all the toilet paper was going, that little market had toilet paper. I bought a dozen eggs. There are disposable gloves.

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And wine. That little market has a great selection of wine.

Heroes Work Here.

Our trash gets picked up like clockwork, just like it always has. Often, I’ve forgotten to put the cans on the edge of our alley, and the workers still go up to the fence, check the cans, and empty the trash. The buses are still running, the drivers making sure essential workers or people without a car, can get to the store and back. Or to the doctor. Or to their essential job.

Heroes Work Here.

We do try to order out from restaurants we want to help during this time. Chris Z’s, Giuseppe’s, even the Waffle House. We use DoorDash and Grubhub to deliver our food sometimes. Men and women cooking the food, and men and women delivering it. Same for grocery shopping. We use Instacart and Shipt. They do our shopping, so we don’t have to expose ourselves. We have a close friend in a retirement home, and since we can’t visit her or take her stuff, we had her groceries delivered. Those folks are on the front lines, too. And those nurses and support staff at her retirement home. And all the retirement homes, filled with residents who are at special risk of the virus.

Heroes Work Here.

Then there are the ambulance drivers and the firefighters and the police officers. Crime is certainly down since most of us are staying home, but still, there is crime. Birmingham is a big city. So the crime is there: Homicides, robberies, and domestic abuse. While most crime is down, domestic abuse, the most dangerous kind of call for a police officer to take, is soaring. The stress of staying inside, being close 24/7, means first responders have to be ready.

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Heroes Work Here.

We saw Easter night that tornadoes and bad weather don’t care about a novel coronavirus. So power company and other utility workers responded, as they always have in times of disaster. As they always do.

Heroes Work Here.

That’s an important sign. It’s important to recognize that this is no game, no adventure, no joke.

Give this special class of heroes their due. Thank them, if not now, later. Keep them and their families in your prayers and good thoughts. If you have to go out, be patient. Smile. Encourage.

From 6 feet away, please.

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected].

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Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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