I don’t know about anyone else, but I am counting down the days until spring arrives. This week’s sunshine felt like Catnip for humans.

I don’t do winter very well. It’s just so stark and uncomfortable. I’ll gladly trade that cold, wet, unpredictable mess of a season for longer days and warmth. Oh sure, by late July, I’ll be sweating as I go to war against my yard and evade all of the fresh insects. I savor those months in between the extremes, springtime and fall, when the air is a pleasant crisp and there’s lots of fun things to do. Getting in the car and going for a ride with the windows down, singing along to some of my favorite songs. Although I’m no fan of the allergies, seeing the green return to the hills does my soul some good.

However, this spring brings a couple of emotionally-charged milestones. Grim or inspiring, it depends on how you look at it.

March 13 marks a year since Alabama’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 and a year under Gov. Kay Ivey’s public health order limiting crowd sizes. We didn’t get a confirmed case locally until my birthday, March 26 (not a good present!). Sometimes I wonder, if we’d known in advance how bad last year was going to get, would I have wanted to brace myself for the impact? Or would that have simply increased the dread?

A memory from a year ago was talking to my friend, who lives in Japan and was very worried about the rapid spread of this mysterious new disease across Asia. I assured him it was probably nothing to be too worried about. I apologized to him last summer for not knowing what I was talking about.

I vividly remember being shocked by the Feb. 25, 2020 briefing from Dr. Nancy Messonnier, head of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, when she warned us that “severe disruption of everyday life” was coming.

Nationally, we’re passing a half million deaths from the pandemic, nearly 10,000 souls lost in our state alone. In DeKalb County, we’ve lost 174 people to this modern plague. Across Alabama, we’re closing in on 492,000 cases of sickness – and that’s just the ones who were diagnosed. You only had to look at the expanding number of obituaries in this very paper to sense that Messonnier had predicted accurately.

Now vaccines offer hope of better days, although some of the people who are most at risk of contagion are passing on getting the shot until we know more about the side effects. That’s their choice and I respect it. It’s a bit like that first warm day of spring when we dip our toes in the lake and dare someone else to jump in first to see how cold it really is. I’m not yet eligible for the vaccine, but I would take it in a heartbeat if I could. I just want to get beyond this pandemic and return to the things I took for granted 13 months ago. I’ve made a list of all the things I want to do again! Sitting with friends listening to live music and making a new memory is high on that list.

Speaking of memories, we are also approaching the 10-year anniversary of the EF5 tornadoes of April 27, 2011. A total of 35 victims lost their lives as seven tornadoes struck DeKalb County. It was almost too horrible and terrifying to process. A monument at the DeKalb County Schools Coliseum preserves the memory of those who were killed on that fateful day.

While it will be painful to mark these anniversaries in the weeks ahead, we can take hope in what we’ve learned about our resiliency in the face of devastating challenges. Like the flowers we’ll soon watch bloom, we return for more of what nature has in store for us, hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.

— Steven Stiefel is the publisher of the Times-Journal. His column appears in Saturday editions. Email: steven.stiefel@times-journal.com.

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