Like 9/11, COVID-19 is an opportunity to create unity and gratitude.
By Michelle Bedoya Barnett • JBA President
Most of us remember where we were and what we were doing on Sept. 11, 2001, when we witnessed the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City – the deadliest terrorist attack in history on American soil.
I was in Nashville, three weeks into my first year of law school. I remember walking out of my criminal law class at 9 a.m. after an interesting discussion of retributive versus restorative justice.
Students and professors were gathering around televisions in the hallways. I vividly remember watching as the second plane crashed into the South Tower.
At first it seemed it had to be a replay. That is until the New Yorkers in the crowd shouted to each other and confirmed it was the other tower.
I locked eyes with my brother in the hallway as he was heading to his next class. I called my parents. I called my sister.
In a matter of minutes, everyone in the U.S. knew nothing would be the same again.
The moments that define a country and alter its course of history forever can be shocking, abrupt and conspicuous like the horrific events of 9/11.
Some catastrophic events, however, move slowly. They sneak up on us until the reality no longer can be ignored.
That is the case with the hurdle currently facing our society, the novel coronavirus.
The epidemic and the terrorist attacks on 9/11 differ in many ways, the former being shocking, violent and hatefully motivated; the latter moving slowly, eventually exerting its influence over our lives with no clearly identifiable culprit or malice.
Coronavirus, and the impact it would have on the whole country’s way of life, did not strike me until that day in March when my children were sent home from school not knowing when they would return. With a good dose of flexibility, and an even larger dose of patience, parents somehow became teachers and IT experts and made it through the rest of the school year.
Despite the frustrating limitations COVID-19 has placed on our lives, there is much we can learn from this pandemic. The adjustments we have made allow us to create a society that can continue being productive while minimizing face-to-face contact.
Perhaps the most important lesson to be learned is that we must be flexible.
For lawyers in particular, in a profession that demands constant communication, meetings and social interaction, adapting to the changes caused by the pandemic is vital.
Despite the difficulties and complications coronavirus has caused, there are silver linings: more time with family and a generally slower pace of life.
Virtual access to meetings and events means greater accessibility to all. In fact, online accessibility has increased participation in Jacksonville Bar Association events.
Being flexible and seeing the good in situations that seem to have no positive angle is what will allow us to continue and persevere.
After 9/11, Americans experienced a sense of unity, the desire to help our neighbors, to spread positivity and to feel grateful just to be alive.
Often, unity is born of tragedy. This is a sentiment our nation direly needs. Despite a polarizing political and economic climate, coronavirus impacts us just as the terrorist attack 19 years ago did and still does.
Remembering the events of 9/11 and honoring those who lost their lives that day provides us with perspective. Our young country has experienced loss, hardship and tragedy, but it will continue to adapt, advance and prevail.
Michelle Bedoya Barnett is a founding partner of Alexander DeGance Barnett, focusing on labor and employment law.