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And then there were vaccines

It was just about a year ago when we did our final shopping for what was billed as maybe a few weeks of lockdown.

We even scored toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

I didn't know then I'd still be washing groceries a year later, that worries about variants and vaccines would make toilet paper anxiety seem quaint.

(Yes, the notion of the novel coronavirus lurking on groceries has largely been debunked, but habits die hard.)

I will always remember venturing out, at the start of the lockdown, to check on the ghostly Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, our 24-hour sin cities shuttered overnight, for the first time ever, entrances barricaded and vast parking lots and garages empty.

It's been quite a year.

I am so sorry for everyone's loss. We are all still grieving on many different levels.

And I remain deeply grateful for the pandemic heroes here and everywhere, on the front lines, from emergency rooms to grocery store registers. Thank you seems so inadequate.

Like everyone else, I miss the pre-pandemic world of normalcy, and it may be longer than we think before we get it back.

I am grateful, though, for some parts of the strange year we've left behind, like none I've ever experienced in my fairly long life.

It was a remarkable year for shaping our culture and politics, positive changes that may linger for a generation.

Who could have imagined that the whole country, in the midst of unprecedented public health and economic crises, would rise up in outrage over the way George Floyd was executed by police on a public street in Minneapolis.

The summer that awoke the Black Lives Matter movement may linger in our memories of 2020 as long as COVID fears.  It certainly did not begin to end systemic racism in the country, but we made progress, at least, in reminding us how much work remains to be done.

The pandemic also further exposed the widening gulf in our country between the fortunate and unfortunate, a great chasm of inequality that I hope we may begin to better address now that it is so much more apparent.

COVID laid bare the fact that these inequalities can mean the difference between life and death.

Strangely, it was both a worrisome and encouraging year for our democracy. The pandemic and our responses to it fueled the election.

We learned anew how fragile our system is and how much we should treasure it. In the end, democracy held tight, despite an armed insurrection, and we had a peaceful transfer of power, with a fabulous rendition of the national anthem by Lady Gaga, wearing a giant gold brooch of a dove holding an olive branch.

We fought for and won the right to mail in ballots. We put on masks and stood in lines.  We voted in historic numbers and made our voices heard. Judges appointed by both parties reviewed it all and found it fair and just.

Maybe the most encouraging part of the pandemic for me has been the little ways that we continued to show our resilience, compassion and humanity. For the most part, we adapted pretty well.

I see it all the time on my pandemic walks, when strangers, passersby, manage to convey a smile with a mask on.

I never would have imagined a year ago we would still be this deep into the pandemic.

But I am looking forward very soon to unpacking the groceries without washing them, a habit I know I can now break.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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