Yesterday’s New York Times front page — with the name, age, place, and a tiny obit of 1,000 of the nearly 100,000 Americans who have died from the deadly, highly infectious coronavirus, was significant for several reasons.
1 — It helped bring home the reality of the virus — real people have died, with real lives, and their lives and loss affected many others. It’s an important reminder, particularly for those who still have trouble accepting the seriousness of the global pandemic. Yes, it’s actually happening, to people we know or know of, including my uncle Tony Booth, jazz musicians Ellis Marsalis, Wallace Roney and Mike Longo, and singer-songwriter John Prine (all the above musicians made it onto the list). Sadly, the virus is not done with us.
2 — It helped demonstrate WHY the work of journalists is so essential to our society — the list was made possible thanks to the hard work of journalists around the country who gathered the details of these lost lives, and provided that info to the NYT.
3 — It showed what kind of impact a print publication can have: How can you not be shocked and moved by the sight of all those names of folks crowded across the entire front page?
Empathy is something we could use much more of in this country right now, from the highest office in the land to all of us.