We often think of history as just stories about important or heroic events, often dating back to times before we were born. While these are important, both for remembrance and the life lessons that they teach us, we sometimes fail to recognize the importance and significance of current events happening right in front of us, day after day.


The current COVID-19 pandemic is one such event. It has it all:


Medical science: We’ve learned what a virus is, and how it differs from bacteria and replicates itself using RNA; how it infects cells wall tissue and spreads; how the human body responds to it, especially if it’s a new one that the body (or human population in total) has never experienced before.


Epidemiology: I bet that before this pandemic started, most of us never really knew that there was a branch of medicine devoted to how infectious diseases move through a population, studying and understanding that new disease, discovering cures and vaccines, and how an epidemic can become a pandemic.


Socio-Economics: Yes, the science of numbers-crunching and trend analysis was impacted as well. Who knew that the following would or could happen – large offices vacated, retail establishments closing, consumers no longer buying and consuming en-masse, but forced to the internet for simple purchases. Who understood the importance to our community were our simple bars and restaurants that we take for granted, or the many people working in service industries who were non longer available? The rapid, short-term degradation in our employment rate and GDP, zero interest rates, and precipitous fall of the stock markets (since recovered) were unprecedented.


And then – there was the "toilet paper" hoarding, the "Issue of Tissue." At least, now I know the answer to "What is the first thing that most people would take if they were to be stranded on a desert island?"


On the social front, working from home (sometimes both spouses) produced its own set of rules and stress. And now, the kids are at home as well, learning on-line. Ironically, this pandemic may be producing both a baby boomlet and a rise in the divorce rate at the same time.


Political wrangling: One thing should be understood. No human intervention or government action could ever completely control a new spreading virus on a rampage. Despite measures to limit or ban the movement of large numbers of people, the virus will always find a way to leak out. Therefore, policies should be focused on limiting the spread, and addressing needs and shortages in providing health care.


Fighting a wide-spread disease should definitely be led by public-health policies, focusing on educating the public and mitigating the spread. Tracking the spread is very crucial, for that is the basis for best deploying scarce medical resources. Acquiring appropriate public resources (state, federal, FEMA) and even military assistance, should also be anticipated.


Admittedly, we as a nation were slow to respond. But roadblocks were seen at the various levels – federal, state, county, local clubs – when synergies were needed and should have been generated. What particularly irked me in the end, was the wrangling over the wearing of face masks, which is just a common sense issue (just look at many other countries). How did that ever become a political one?


The old proverb-curse "May you live in interesting times" was perhaps never more poignant than now. However, even this era will ultimately become just a memory that we will sometimes shake our heads at, wondering how we ever got through it. Hopefully the lessons learned will not be soon forgotten.


Chuck Nardi, a Chicago native and Marine Corps veteran, is the post historian for the local American Legion Post 31. He has lived in Fort Smith for 17 years, working formerly as an industrial engineer and now a logistics planner for a major Fort Smith corporation.