We Returned to Normal – The Atlantic

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We told him about New York, the fear of getting sick, the overloaded hospitals, the long-term closure of schools and playgrounds, the economic devastation there and throughout the country, the lackluster federal-government response. We told him how grateful we were to be here in Iceland. Our masks weren’t for our safety, we said, but for his.

Peter knew much of this. He had been watching the news and had seen the disaster of the United States’ COVID-19 response. But if it was that bad to live through, he wanted to know, why didn’t the country respond to the virus in a serious way, so that it could move on safely? I didn’t know what to say. I don’t understand it either.

I have always seen Iceland as a laboratory for the future, particularly for the United States. Its leadership in climate change, renewable energy, gender equity, and so much more show what could someday be possible with real innovation and effort. Today, Iceland also shows us a vision of a missed present.

A few days into our trip, with normal life beginning to feel more and more normal, I sat in a café on the ocean edge of the city and called into an urgent parents’ meeting for our children’s preschool. Our tuition was due imminently and so many questions were still unanswered. Preschoolers don’t do well in virtual classrooms, we all agreed, and what about child-care needs for those of us who are working, not to mention those of us who might have to go back to the office? How do we keep our beloved school solvent and teachers employed? It felt like I was calling into another planet. There was so little governmental guidance or support. There was still the virus.

We love New York City.  We are going to return. But we don’t know what New York will be when we do. After only a few days in Iceland and a taste of normal life, the city and the coronavirus already felt so far away. As we settle in for our summer here, we hope this is an early return to normalcy. What we fear, though—and what I think we know but struggle to accept—is that this is just a temporary reprieve. Soon we’ll be back in New York City, ready with our masks and rituals, steeling ourselves for the months ahead.

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Adam Roy Gordon is the engagement director at the United States Network of the United Nations Global Compact.

Adam Roy Gordon

2020-07-04 06:00:00

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