For years now, I’ve had phone Apps that outline daily holidays in America and beyond. They are often very silly commemorations, seemingly organized by associations representing some particular industry or another. From time-to-time, I’m illuminated by an interesting, previously unknown-to-me “holiday,” but I couldn’t be prepared for what I would see today. Since 1989, April 28 has been “Workers’ Memorial Day,” an international day of remembrance and action for workers killed, disabled, injured, or made unwell by their work. The slogan for this occasion, originally launched by the AFL-CIO, is “Remember the dead—fight for the living.” Workers’ Memorial Day is celebrated throughout Western Europe, Australia, Taiwan and beyond. This was another reminder that we need to do more than clapping or hitting pots and pans at 7 p.m. to honor front line workers serving all of us during the pandemic.
I watch way too much television these days—always news and always about the Covid-19 virus. It’s impossible not to be moved by the struggles of EMTs, nurses, doctors, and other hospital and health workers during this epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that 9,000 health-care workers have been infected with coronavirus and dozens have died. Yet, this article was from 10 days ago, which is eons in the current ring of hell in which we find ourselves. Just today, there was a heartbreaking report of an esteemed New York ER doctor Lorna Breen who, while recovered from Covid-19, died by suicide under the unbearable stress and sadness of serving very sick Covid-19 patients.
The federal and state responses to this pandemic have been a patchwork of sturdy initiatives and flimsy excuses, so it’s hard to imagine when our political system will have the fortitude to create meaningful programs to support these true heroes. Discussions have been floated about student loan forgiveness for these front-line caregivers, which seems like the least we can do for these folks who put their lives on the line. We must consider some sort of financial compensation for their health issues they suffer due to their work in hospitals and beyond. These people deserve our thanks and encouragement, but they also are entitled to so much more given that they have really shouldered the burden for getting us to the other side of this once-in-a-century pandemic. I have to imagine these are unwitting heroes; what nursing or medical student would ever imagine that they would be called to step into life-threatening circumstances every single day? Let’s show them that we really appreciate the fact that they have pulled us, collectively, from the brink of complete disaster.