“Honey, I’m tougher than the rest.” – Bruce Springsteen
The Coronavirus death toll in New York City is now higher than what we lost on 9/11. It’s higher than what we lost in 1990 – when there were more than five murders a day, mostly because of crack cocaine.
- LIVE UPDATES: Coronavirus in New York City
- LIVES LOST: Remembering Victims of the Coronavirus
- What to Do If You Test Positive for COVID-19
- CDC Coronavirus Page
- WHO Coronavirus Page
We’re dwelling in a bleak house that’s being battered by a slow-motion tornado, taking away hundreds of New Yorkers every day. It’s easy to lose sight when our darkness is punctuated only by ambulances that are bringing out the dead.
But I’m here to praise New York and not bury it. In our immediate pain and weird quarantine, it’s easy to forget how many times the city was left for dead only to see it roaring back. From the seven years of brutal occupation by British forces during the Revolution to the bloody Civil War draft riots to the terror attack of 9/11, New York has sometimes been a cauldron of misery. Looking back at the blackout of 1977, it’s amazing to see Bushwick rebuild from the ashes, let alone the rest of the city.
And while this pandemic may be unchartered territory for us, it’s not for our city. At least 25,000 New Yorkers were killed by the Spanish Flu in 1918 and 1919, forcing residents to wear masks as many of them huddled at home, trying to ride out a storm.
None of this may be particularly comforting if you just lost a loved one because of Coronavirus or are holed up in your apartment. But it can serve as a helpful garlic necklace against those who are about to write off the city in the wake of this awful mess.
We will never be the same. But just like New Orleans was never the same after Katrina, New York can rally and rebuild and transmorgify.
This is likely going to be an absolutely wretched week – and that’s why it’s good to remember that we’ve made it through so much worse. As we say in New York, Excelsior, ever upward. Everyone else gets a Bronx cheer.