Last March, a group called Hearts of Okanagan started with the idea of putting up hearts in our windows in an effort to show we are in this together even though we were isolated at home at the time. Painted rocks started showing up all over the community with messages of hope. (Facebook)

Last March, a group called Hearts of Okanagan started with the idea of putting up hearts in our windows in an effort to show we are in this together even though we were isolated at home at the time. Painted rocks started showing up all over the community with messages of hope. (Facebook)

COLUMN: We have lost so much in the last year, but hopefully not our hope

It might be at the fringes of our hearts right now, but hope is there

March 11, 2021 marks one year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic.

One year ago this week, I was sitting in the lunchroom of the school I was working at, talking to colleagues about the craziness of toilet paper hoarding and how I was debating whether or not to cancel my spring break vacation to Hawaii.

It was a scary time of unknowns and confusion. Our eyes were glued to the news each night as we tried to digest the possibility of this coronavirus spreading around the world and right into our communities.

It seemed impossible to even comprehend. But we knew the panic was setting in as was evidence of hoarding of food and toilet paper. (I still don’t understand why toilet paper was the hot commodity?) Ever since that week, it has been announcement after announcement of bad news that has carried on for a whole year.

We did end up cancelling our trip.

One week later, our PM Justin Trudeau went on national TV to tell all Canadians travelling abroad to come back home “Now.” Don’t wait, don’t delay.

Flights were grounded, schools were shuttered, restaurants and businesses closed, yellow caution tape went up around playgrounds. We watched on the news as make-shift hospitals were being built in China to handle the sick and dying.

I remember my first time going to a grocery store and being terrified. Terrified to touch anything, terrified of breathing other people’s air. Scared of catching this virus no one seemed to know anything about.

Those first few months put all our bodies in a constant fight or flight reaction of fear. Most of our jobs were furloughed or we were working from home. Our kids were home, told not to play with anyone. We couldn’t visit with family. We tried to show a brave, calm face to our child. But he saw the caution tape, he had no interaction with friends or family for many months. Playing in the park wasn’t even safe at the time.

We have all been experiencing a collective trauma but we are not in the same boat. We are in the same storm. It has been extremely damaging to our mental and physical health. We have lost loved ones. Some have died alone because they weren’t allowed any visitors. This seems unfathomable and so very wrong.

Social distancing has been the word of the year.

With fear has brought out the conspiracy theorist and anti-maskers who have taken out their anger and mistrust on innocent retail workers and us in the media as well. There are those who have shown just how selfish humans can be and carried on as if this deadly virus wasn’t among them. They have vacationed and gathered and caused super-spreaders across our province.

All our sacrifices undone by these selfish people.

While there has been so much mental anguish and economic ruin through this pandemic, there is one thing that has held me through to this point (barely, mind you).

That one thing is hope. It might be at the fringes of our hearts right now, but the hope is there. I see it in the stories we write about. From the restaurants that are opening to the businesses that are expanding or pivoting. I see it in the generosity this community has shown to local charities that couldn’t host fundraisers this year. Yet, donations were up for most non-profits.

At the corners of our exhausted brains, there is hope that vaccines will eventually, albeit far too slowly, bring light at the end of this very dark tunnel. I have hope that we will get to hug again, gather, celebrate, have Peach Fest, Iron Man and the Penticton Market and all the other events we enjoy so much. Hope is the one thing that can carry us forward. And if not, at least we have toilet paper!

— Monique Tamminga is the editor of the Penticton Western News