Peak Perspectives: What We’ve Lost

*Note: This audio essay first aired on KRCC (Colorado Springs’ NPR affiliate, 91.5 FM) on September 24, 2020. The link to the program is here; the audio file and the text from the essay are below.

From March 1 to September 1, we averaged 860 American deaths to COVID-19 a day, double the death rate in World War II, higher than the Civil War. 

COVID-19 has claimed one American every 100 seconds.

You can’t argue with coffins; this virus kills more than combat.*

Like Valentina Blackhorse, who died by COVID this year at age 28. To the one-year-old daughter she left behind, Mommy can’t be replaced.

Or jazz legend Ellis Marsalis, age 85.

Or Raymond Copeland, 46, raised 3 girls as a single father after his wife died, and those 3 girls are now orphans.

Or Skyler Herbert, she was only 5. Her first responder parents lost their own child while protecting others.

Dr. Adeline Fagan, 28, caught the virus in July working a 12-hour emergency room shift, was kept alive for two months on experimental drugs, invasive machines, and desperate hope.

She died just days ago.

These were Americans.

We’ve lost nearly 2,000 Coloradans to COVID. That’s a city-sized loss, like a Limon, a Lyons or a Las Animas, and it’s approaching the loss of a Leadville.

We should reflect. 

We should resolve, as Lincoln at Gettysburg, to “increased devotion” for the “great task remaining before us,” recommit ourselves to the post-9/11 refrain: “never again.”

Because in just the time I’ve spoken, we lost another American, who likely died alone. Someone’s grandmother, someone’s dad, someone’s child. 

Those “someones” are us.

Be good, be well, be sure to wear your mask when appropriate. 

Until next week, even through tears, climb on. 

*Reader’s note from the author on the comparison between American deaths in combat versus COVID-19:

While it’s been pointed out that COVID-19 is worse than several major wars combined, the truth is even more stark. Looking back on COVID-19 deaths in the United States from March 1 to 1 Sept. 1, 183,598 Americans died of COVID-19. Over 214 days, that’s about 858 per day on average, or roughly 860 a day.

Based on the vetted public database on Wikipedia, balanced against my own knowledge and background as someone who studies American wars, I started comparing. 

The Overland Campaign was the bloodiest period of the American Civil War (responsible for filling the first graves at Arlington National Cemetery in 1864). Roughly 11,800 were killed in 51 days. That’s an average of 232 per day. When I did that math, it scared me, because for someone that’s spent a career studying the worst combat in American history, COVID-19’s over three times more lethal.

Take the Battle of Gettysburg, which took the lives of 7,900 Americans (including Confederates in the count) in 3 days. This past April 17 (2,299), April 18 (3,770), and April 19 (1,856) totaled 7,925 deaths to COVID-19 — more than Gettysburg. 

And the virus kept rolling along.

D-Day cost America 2,499 lives at Normandy; April 22, 2020, cost America 2,524 dead. 

COVID-19 took more Americans in one week than we lost in all Afghanistan and Iraq, the two longest wars in U.S. history.

Some will nitpick, some will counter, some will haggle, some will quibble. But, as was said on the air, you can’t argue with coffins. We’re living through true tragedy. It may be a different, invisible sort of tragedy, but these are enormous sums of Americans that are no longer with us. Their families grieve. We all should too.

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