The year 2020 has been terrible for Bonnie Soria. Her father and mother died, tragically and suddenly, from the coronavirus. “I get a call from the hospital, they tell me: 'Your mom's heart stopped, there's nothing we can do,' and she passed away,” she told me between sobs. “Not even an hour later, I get a call and the nurse says, 'We're about to put your dad on a ventilator.'”
Six members of Bonnie's family in Texas have died from the virus, and there are no more tears to shed. But overcoming everything, she created a support group on Facebook, Covid-19 Survivors, to help relatives of the victims of this terrible disease. Many have had to say goodbye to their most loved ones on the screen of an iPad.
Could there be a more solitary death? I have spent most of the year interviewing families that could not say goodbye to their father, to their mother, to a child or partner, and my heart, like everyone else, is now broken. You can watch my chat with Bonnie by clicking here
This has probably been the worst year of our collective lives. The more than 7.8 billion people in this planet were mortally threatened by a virus that our eyes can't see but which destroys our lungs and almost everything else it touches. Disaster movies came up short. Covid-19 is the worst pandemic to hit the world since the Spanish Flu killed more than 50 million people more than a century ago.
Deaths from the coronavirus around the world already stand at more than 1.7 million people, and the number of cases at more than 77 million. It doesn't help to say that 2020 has not been as disastrous as 1918. Every morning, like hypochondriacs, we search our bodies for symptoms of Covid-19, and if you want to cough you hide so no one will hear you. We sense death is nearby when we open the doors to our homes, when we kiss or hug someone we love, when a friend or co-worker approaches us, when we go to the supermarket or board a subway or an airplane.
What was normal became fatal.
What was identified in early 2020 as a “ viral pneumonia” in Wuhan, China – possibly transmitted from bats to humans, according to the magazine Nature – turned into the biggest medical challenge of our lives. It put everything on pause, even the Olympics, and forced us to isolate and change our habits radically. So much so that studying and working from home became a real option in the new post-Covid world. But the economic consequences of the pandemic – nearly 16,000 restaurants closed permanently in the United States, for example – will affect us for years.
What was normal will never be normal again in the same way.
Crisis separate great leaders from the rest. The prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, 40, was reelected because of her honest, transparent, clear and tough handling of the pandemic. She saved many lives. On the other hand, I will never understand the irresponsible attitude of the presidents of the United States, Mexico and Brazil, to name just three, that to his day refuse to wear masks in public. How many lives could have been saved if they had set a better example?
We all have personal stories about this terrible year. Mine, luckily, are trivial. I have not been on an airplane or in a restaurant in more than nine months. We had to cancel our Saturday futbolito games. An important part of my job was to travel, but now I can broadcast part of my news program from a small corner of my house. I took advantage of the dead time to write a new book and watched more TV serials than I care to admit. My favorites: Patria, The Crown, The Queen's Gambit, Unorthodox and Club de Cuervos, and Borgen, Nobel and Occupied from Scandinavia.
What pains me most is the time lost. My mother turned 86 years old and I did not want to risk visiting her in Mexico City. I would never forgive myself if I infected her. We chat a lot on a tablet. But that's not enough.
How do I recover the hugs we missed?
In this year so full of death, misfortune, loneliness and isolation, there are heaps of lessons. But beyond what we learned – to cuddle your loved ones, take advantage of every moment, give meaning to what we do, say “no” more often, take a risk on something new – the weight of the pain, ours and others', is overwhelming. It makes us bow.
Despite all that, the coronavirus vaccines – that marvelous and effective invention in transparent drops – allow us to imagine an end. They don't have chips or GPS, and are not part of an international conspiracy to control our minds. That's stupid nonsense spread by charlatans on social networks.
Vaccines save lives and prove that science rules, after all.
I don't believe in magical thinking. The change in numbers from 2020 to 2021 means absolutely nothing. Nevertheless, I want this sickly year to end. There are so many things pending …