Art Martynuska

Art Martynuska

Cambria County has weathered a great and terrible storm, a storm of a century. COVID-19 rolled into Cambria County like a slow freight train. Folks could feel it coming for miles, even countries away.

You could watch the devastation like a slow train wreck, you knew it was going to happen and you could not do anything about it. Along its deadly path, COVID-19 destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives and ruined thousands of businesses.

People huddled in their homes, faces were covered, schools shuttered and travel terminated. Hand-washing has become a thing that now occurs dozens of times a day.

Hospitals were bulging with the sick and dying.

Medical professionals and first responders rose to the challenge, but even their staunch ranks were hit hard.

Men and women who had served their communities for countless years were forced to come face-to-face with an enemy that seemed like it would take no prisoners.

Adults and children were thrown into a world that nobody in generations had experienced, or in some cases even understood.

Protective supplies that had been a second thought for years were not to be found.

The world was forced to face an invisible menace that was difficult to quantify. Information about this enemy that seems to have originated in a far off and often inscrutable land was meager. The facts indicated that COVID-19 leapt from the depths of a mysterious land added even more of a sinister veneer to the already shadowy personification of an unseen terror.

Men, women and all people were equal in the eyes of the COVID-19 predator. Whole communities, states and even nations were locked down. Not since the black death of the middle ages did travel from one country to another become so dangerous. COVID-19 did what no border wall or security force could do, it shut off continents from each other.

Families were separated by sickness, panic and fear. The most vulnerable of citizens, our elderly, were shut off from their families and loved ones.

Whole communities of the elderly were isolated like the contagious wards of old. Children had to endure what they couldn’t understand – masks are just for Halloween, not for playing outside. If we wear a costume don’t we get candy?

The world was spinning in a different direction than it was just a few months earlier. How could this happen in the 21st century?

Maybe all those scientists before us were right. It is not the atom bomb that will kill us, it’s a tiny microbe. Rumors do what rumors do, they started to spread. The disinformation and the misinformation mutated just as the COVID-19 virus mutated. The ever-moving target of COVID-19 was sometimes out paced by the ever-changing rumor mill, nee rumor industry.

Social media, once hailed as the greatest information herald of all time, became a haven for the lie and innuendo.

Whole segments of our population were bamboozled into believing that the COVID-19 pandemic was a hoax.

Poppycock cures and medieval remedies were the order of the day. Profiteers swelled the ranks of the dubious charlatans who proclaimed “miracle’ antidotes. Other unscrupulous scammers peddled second or even third-rate protective equipment to a population desperate to shield themselves from the viral enemy that had wrought so much carnage.

Every day we were faced with the mounting casualty list. The body count skyrocketed into dimensions that we could not fathom. Upward spiraled the death notices. Our eyes perused the names of the fallen like they were the victims of an attack from an alien invader. The macabre reading of page after page and column after column of the dead became second nature.

The obituary notices that seemed foreign and distant just a few scant weeks before brought names that we now recognized. Friends, family and co-workers all mingled together like so many pictures in a scrapbook. We had a weird sense of relief when there were no names that we knew in the dark print of the funeral notices. Print that was made even darker when it extended for what seemed like an eternity in the news column.

Slowly, we rose, dedicated to a cause that before the cataclysmic thunder of COVID-19 seem impossible. One nation, under God for liberty and justice for all rang across the land.

Our best and brightest minds came together. Their task daunting, their will undeterred, beat this hard.

Not since World War II did our nation cohere in as we did to vanquish an insidious enemy that attached us from within.

Physician, nurse, paramedic, fire fighter, police officer, newspaper, radio and television and the common Joe melded into a behemoth driven army that would trample the COVID scourge.

In mere months, a worldwide enemy is being eliminated. Cambria County has weathered the worst that COVID can throw at us. We are still fighting, but we are also still laughing, loving and looking out for each other. The Cambria “Can Do,” attitude is as strong as ever, even stronger than it was a year ago.

I, for one, am proud when I tell people I from a little town in Cambria County called Lilly.

Ever hear of it? It is off Route 22 near Cresson.

Stay proud and strong Cambrians, you have earned it.

Art Martynuska is EMA deputy director of Department of Emergency Services.

Art Martynuska is EMA deputy director of Department of Emergency Services

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