Europe Under Siege Our New Normal?

After enduring winter’s fog obscuring our mountains, I rejoiced to see the sun rise over the Alps and Lake Geneva. Though daffodils dance with the promise of spring, people remain oppressed.

Our resplendent view clashes with the darkness in our hearts, as we face a relentless enemy. As if it blew in overnight, coronavirus swept across the land leaving silence in its wake. No birds chirp in the gardens, no planes fly overhead, no cars rumble in the distance.

We live in a bucolic village outside Geneva Switzerland at the crossroads of the globe only 2 minutes from France, an hours drive from Germany, 3 to Italy. But right now no one travels beyond the block.

How could we not see what was happening?

When the coronavirus invaded our neighbor Italy, we continued daily routines. We didn’t know anyone who was sick. Weren’t symptoms mild? Weren’t only the elderly and infirm at risk? We lied to ourselves “I am healthy, I am robust, I am not that old.”

Meanwhile coronavirus crept into our communities.

Ten days ago, President Macron rang alarm bells urging French people to stay home to protect our most vulnerable.

Champs-Elysées, Paris, March 20th 2020

The following day, Swiss authorities enforced the same protocol. One by one European countries followed suite closing borders, shutting schools, and urging employees to work from home.

Like vultures swooping down on prey, people ravaged grocery shelves stocking up for the siege and stormed pharmacy stock for hand sanitizers, gloves, masks, pain killers. Worse yet, medical staff faced shortages.

Even so, many others still ignored warnings and continued to party in crowds at parks, cafes, night clubs spreading disease with every encounter.

So governments mandated more restrictions. Overnight, France turned into police state. Officers fined citizens 135 euros ($150) for leaving their homes without a warrant.

For first time since WWII, Switzerland deployed troops to help transport supplies and patients from overflowing hospitals. In Ticino, the Italian speaking part of Switzerland, no beds remained. ICU patients in Alsace region had to be airlifted to other parts of France.

Europe Under Siege Our New Normal
Warning signs in Swiss train station

Infections doubled daily, death rates climbed.

Did we do too little too late?

Citizens learned a new vocabulary – Covid-19, containment, mitigation, social distancing, flatten the curve.

And changed cultural customs. No hand shaking, cheek kissing, bear hugging. No funerals, no weddings, no family gatherings. Grandparents can no longer babysit children. Family members not living in the same house can’t meet up. With no entertainment, no social gatherings, no sporting events, we grumbled about the very restrictions that may safe keep our lives.

As free floating anxiety reigned across the land, our lives are stripped to bare necessities — food, water, air.

Tick tock. Tick tock. Italians cried, “Heed our warnings!”

Are we listening?

Who will be next?

Is this the new normal?

Instead of turning inward in self-pity, we need to look outward.

How can we support the overworked medical personnel?

What can we do to help the poor and homeless survive?

How can we reach out to struggling neighbors?

Who can we do to lift someone up today?

16 thoughts on “Europe Under Siege Our New Normal?”

  1. I veer between feeling euphoric over all the leisure time I have, and feeling panic and depression — what is our world coming to? What is the end game? When will I be able to hug my grandbabies again? We’re all keeping up a strong front, but it’s the pits.

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Lynne, like you my emotions seem to be all over the place. One moment I can be real zen and confident we will prevail, and in the next I feel as if the world is ending. I cycle between despair, doom, elation to be alive, and all of which are magnified by being so far away from family. Take one day, one hour, one minute at a time. And above all keep writing.

  2. Maria DeLanghe

    It’s insane Pat. Gail has been very ill since Monday with all the symptoms and being in the critical age group, her doctor sent her for a Covid-19 test. She was turned away 3 times at the ONLY testing site in Austin, TX. Through the week she has worsened, I’ve never seen her this sick. “Go to the ER if she have great difficulty breathing” , everyone tells her. No one will treat her symptoms for fear of the virus although the doctor calls her daily, unheard of in the US. Doctors are not sure what to do with suspected cases, where to send them. We have been going in circles on the phone, driving to test sites, and finally, between 3 medical professionals, we were able to get her tested yesterday. Now, if she tests negative, a doctor will treat her symptoms so she can begin to get well. If she tests positive, there is no treatment yet, but the school district where she interacted with hundreds of students and teachers with compromised health, can be notified that there is a confirmed case and will hopefully self-quarantine and watch for symptoms. At least she will have been tested. The first question she was asked at the testing site where she was turned away, “Have you been in contact with anyone who has tested positive?” Her response was, “How would I know, the state hasn’t tested anyone.” Our government is doing nothing but allowing Trump to virtually run a re-election campaign using his daily news conferences. Berating journalists who ask him what he could say to the people of America who are scared. Trump said that was a nasty question!!! I hope everyone remembers how he has handled this when it comes time to elect our next president.
    I pray that you and Gerald are doing well and I’ve been in touch with Sue. Thank you for giving us real life information from Europe. I’m concerned about all of my relatives in Belgium as well. Love you my friend.

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Oh Maria this is outrageous. How can this be happening in America? It’s not like you are requesting testing from another planet. It’s Texas for god’s sake. I am so worried for you and Gail and other Americans that cannot get ER care. Over here experts recommend not taking anti-inflammatories in a case of suspected Covid-19, as it has been shown to worsen the condition. They say paracetamol/acetaminophen is okay. Is Gail feeling any better?
      It is unacceptable that a country that prides itself in being the world’s best in everything is failing its good people on every level.Trump’s ignorant, egocentric behavior and total lack of leadership is to blame. The coronavirus crisis is peaking here in Europe, but thankfully leaders are taking unified steps to protect the people. Gerald and I are fine and hopefully your Belgian relatives will be safe too.

    2. Hi Maria
      So sorry to hear about Gail’s condition. We will be thinking of you both in hope for her improvement.
      This article goes to the roots of today’s major health issue in the US, as, even though it is obviously nobody’s fault that such a pandemic happens, the impact it has largely depends on governments’ policies (or lack of).
      I know you will agree with most of it, but maybe share it around you to open the eyes of more and more people.
      Gérald

      https://bostonreview.net/class-inequality-science-nature/amy-kapczynski-gregg-gonsalves-alone-against-virus

      1. Maria DeLanghe

        Gerald, thanks for sending the article and I will share it. Gail is not doing much better and now her doctor who calls her everyday is concerned about secondary pneumonia. She became ill on March 16 and we unable to get her tested until March 20 because we bombarded the health department and begged. Today is the 24th and still no results and she has not made any improvement. The hospital will turn her away if she is not having great difficulty breathing and stabbing pains in her lower lungs. So, we stay in our apartment, isolated while she doesn’t sleep from coughing. We feel like we have just fallen through the cracks and we will never get help. Gail is almost 70 years old, normally very healthy but I am frightened. She has one of the best healthcare insurance policies in the US and we can’t even use it because no one will see her unless she tests negative. So, we wait for results. Thanks for your concern and stay well. I know you and Pat are struggling as well. Love you Gerald.

  3. Strange and unprecedented times for sure. A friend of mine drove from NC to PA to visit her mother in an assisted living facility while she could. She said the streets of Washington DC were empty. It is truly surreal.
    I often wonder what is going to happen to our economy, but worse yet, I fear for families, children who live in dire circumstances where they perhaps must stay locked up at home with abusive parents, addicted family members, so much, so much.
    I worry about the panic gun and ammunition purchasing everyone here is doing in the US. What will happen now? More suicides, accidental shootings? Is someone going to shoot me for a roll of toilet paper? Okay, I’m actually joking there. But maybe I shouldn’t be?
    I am so grateful that I have my faith to get me through this. I trust that our Lord and Savior has a plan and will be sovereign over this and good things will come out of the ashes.
    Stay safe everyone. Thanks for what you do, Pat. Love you. Virtual hugs.

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and being a voice of reason in country turned topsy turvy. How can Americans possibly think that buying more guns will protect them from a virus that is totally ignores race, gender, age, ethnicity. Covid-19 could care less who you are and how many guns you pack. In addition to completely bungling the coronavirus outbreak Trump has fostered divisive climate of negativity. More people in leadership should heed the wise words of Jono, who has worked so hard over the years to educate the public about pandemics. You and your family must continue to reach out to enlighten and help others through your work in medicine, education, farming and health and recreation. Love right back at all of you, sistah.

  4. Fran Lyon-Dugin

    Pat, thank you painting vivid picture of your world to share with us in the US. We are facing more challenging days ahead, for sure, and authentic leadership (as you have read, I’m sure) is sorely lacking. I returned from my trip to India a week early, as the airlines and travel agent were anxious to get us home. I am self-quarantined at our cabin in the north woods of Minnesota. It’s lonely, but necessary, and I have it better than many, I’m sure. On the “what can we do” front, I volunteer for an organization called Days for Girls that sews fabric menstruation products (look them up…fabulous mission!) They are commissioning the volunteer force, that is worldwide, to make masks for health care workers. There are local branches all across the globe, with thousands of them in the US. I hope to get more information about when and how we will be doing our work to help in this manner when I return to my house and sewing machine!

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Thanks for commenting Fran and I am so glad to hear that you made it back home safely from India even though you had to shorten your stay. A cabin in the woods sounds like the perfect place to hole up for 14 days. Maybe you can use the lonely only time to journal about your impressions. Yes, you are right there has never been a greater need for strong leadership in the US and also to help restore America’s relationships to the rest of world. Hopefully the upcoming elections can bring about a much needed change. Days for Girls project to make masks for health care workers sounds like a wonderful project. I can’t sew a stitch to save my life, but I know people who can, like my mom for one. I am going to look it up and share it with others like her whom I am sure would like to be involved. Thanks so much for reaching out and sharing this idea. Stay well.

  5. Mary Chipman

    Hi Pat! Reading your post made me realize how different yet very similar our lives are here, in the U.S. The same not taking it seriously. The same alertness when people, lots of people, started getting sick. The same isolation as we stay at home, hoping to stop the spread of this thing. In our case, we are being experiencing something unique: a president who led the denial, then switched gears when he could no longer deny the numbers. He continues to brag, to make claims that are not scientifically proven, and in general put the medical professionals who are leading his team, including our vice president, in the position of doing damage control so the misinformation he’s giving is corrected and people can get the facts they want and need to know. I’m not being political here; I’m just describing a reality, and it’s scary. After 9/11, when George Bush visited Ground Zero and said, “They haven’t heard from us yet. But they will,” he inspired Americans and comforted us. But in this frightening time, we don’t have that. We have someone at the helm who doesn’t seem to know what’s going on, and is more interested in promoting himself than in telling us. Others may see it differently, but I look at our wonderful Dr. Fouci and read embarrassment, chagrin, and at times sheer hopelessness on his face. But, you know the American spirit. I’m finding that despite this lack of leadership, we are helping each other to stay calm, to follow the recommendations, and to have hope. Just as you have hope. We all have to dig deep into the part of ourselves that excels the most and bring that spirit to today’s situation. All is not lost. It is frightening, but we’ll prevail and get through this, just as our parents got through the Great Depression, polio, the Dust Bowl, World War II, Korea, Vietnam,and life before women’s rights, to name just a few challenges. It’s time to bring forth what we’ve got. You have so much courage, determination, and compassion to spread to others, and it gives me great hope that we can survive this. I’m proud to be standing right there with you, across the globe. Stay well, stay strong, stay you. xo

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Mary, thank you a thousand times for reaching out and lifting my spirits with your eloquent comments. Though I had always heard stories about how my Norwegian grandfather lost 3 young siblings to the Spanish flu in 1918, I never believed it could happen again. But now we are watching a pandemic spread across the world in real time. Crisis reveals great leaders and exposes fake ones. Trump continues to put lives at risk by promoting false information and delaying actions. But in spite of his poor leadership, the American spirit will never be broken. Just as you reminded me, our parents survived the Great Depression, polio, the Dust Bowl, World War II, Korea, Vietnam… and we too shall prevail by drawing on the resiliency of our ancestors. I feel stronger just knowing you stand by my side, sister. Keep writing and spreading the healing through your power of words.

  6. Peg Hoffmiller

    Oh Pat,
    What a gift for writing you have, and thank you for sharing it with the world. Your opening of the lightness of spring with the smiles of sunshine and blossoming daffodils contrast so well with the darkness of the somberness of humanity. Thank you, again,
    I noticed that you have a Facebook symbol. I am going to expand your world of readers a bit more by adding it to my FB page.
    When I first wrote to you, I was in my first week or so of spine surgery recovery. Started physical therapy this past week. This time my pain is from stretched muscles rather than surgical pain. Yea for progress! Yesterday when I went to therapy, shortly after entering the building, my temperature was taken. I appreciate that additional service because it is a sign of CGH’s concern for those who do come. Actually, only surgical patients are being treated at this time, so the staff is taking turns working 2 weeks on/2 weeks off.

    Peace,
    Peg H.

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Thanks Peg for sharing my post, passing on my message and supporting my writing. I hope that you will heal from your surgery and be able to continue with the therapy for a long as needed. I am so glad to hear they are taking proper precautions at CGH to help protect the community. Take extra special care of yourself during this outbreak. Be safe. Stay healthy, Keep spreading your good cheer. And stay in touch.

  7. Illinois, too, is on lock-down. It’s crazy. With no enforcement, those who say they need to be out continue as if nothing’s changed. The rest of us have hunkered down, trying to stay healthy. I don’t mind too much — I’m a true introvert so social distancing works for me! — but I sure miss watching sports, going to the movies, going to church, eating out occasionally, and shopping. And for a small business like mine, I’m concerned how this is going to affect us economically. Stay safe, my friend!

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Debbie, even it is an inconvenience, I am glad Illinois is in lockdown. I just wish the rest of country would follow the same action because over here the virus is spreading as fast as wildfire. I sure miss sports too especially this month, but there will be other grand tournaments, performances and events. Stay well.

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