From Ground Zero in Italy

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From Ground Zero in Italy

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My immediate family, sister and mother, live in the city of Albino, in the province of Bergamo, the hardest hit area in Italy. The rest of my family lives in Cremona, the second hardest hit area in Italy.
My sister contracted the virus at the very beginning of the pandemic, sometime in February 2019. She locked herself up in her room for 6 weeks and eventually recovered. Six months later she still suffers from fatigue and on-and-off muscle pain.
Two older relatives died of the virus. One was in a hospital for minor surgery he had postponed for a few months. When he finally decided to get it done, it was right at the beginning of the storm. He was infected and died in a matter of days.
The second one was in assisted living. The angel of death glided over the facility and took more than two dozen residents with it.
The most painful was the death of a high school friend, a family doctor in Como. He started seeing patients with strange symptoms. With no guidance and no information from the Health Dept, he kept doing his job. When he came down with the infection, the virus load was so high he only lasted a few days.
My mother escaped the infection. She lives in the same building as my sister, but they didn't see each other for months. She lived alone like a recluse. Friends or relative would drop off food by her door, she would put out the garbage and that was it.
In the meantime she kept hearing stories of people she had known for a lifetime who passed away "they are dropping like flies" she told me one day. She mentioned a famous poem by Italian poet Giuseppe Ungaretti, a poem he wrote while he was fighting in the trenches of World War I: "We are like leaves on a branch in autumn."
I spent hours every day, sometimes several times a day for weeks, trying to console and give her courage. At a certain point I thought she was about to give up. She wasn't eating anymore, she was getting weaker and weaker, half asleep the whole day, awake in terror and sorrow at night.
As to my life, it is similar to that of most of you. I live outside NY, my wife, two daughters and I managed with some adjustments in our routines. I avoided social networks like the plague (sorry for the metaphor), stayed away from the news and commentaries, focused on my teaching as much as possible, even took care of the backyard.
Over the months, it was discouraging to the point of banging my head on my desk when I was watching Europe slowly getting control over the pandemic, while in the US we were and still are stumbling like blind morons, clueless and bamboozled by borderline criminal propaganda. I am not talking about all, of course. But it is frankly horrifying and terrifying to find out that 1 out of 2 people - more or less - I see in the streets live in a state of willful derangement, posing a danger to themselves (I could care less about them) but most of all to the rest of us.
I am a Professor of Italian, Brooklyn College

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