“I want to live alone in the desert
I want to be like Georgia O'Keeffe
I want to live on the Upper East Side
And never go down in the street.”
– Warren Zevon
It’s been one of the darkest springs in New York City history, with 18,231 residents felled by the coronavirus in March and April. That’s like if everyone at a sold-out crowd for a Rangers game at Madison Square Garden dropped dead in two months. Or, if you follow crime in New York City, think of all of those stories about a particularly gruesome murder that gets plenty of attention in our tabloids. Well, New York City has seen 9,532 people classified as homicide victims – for all of the 21st century.
You have to pry open our city’s big book of tragic history to try to understand the sheer magnitude of what COVID-19 has done to New York in a matter of a few bleak weeks.
It feels like 10 years ago, but it was just last month that President Trump claimed that “we see light at the end of the tunnel” – unconsciously echoing General William Westmoreland’s infamous description of the Vietnam War in 1967. But cruel irony is lost on our president, who showed no clue when “Live and Let Die” was playing while he was on a tour of an Arizona mask factory last week.
Cluelessness aside, the numbers are indeed getting a little less awful each day, although it does show that you’re developing a callus on your soul when a “good” day is when 200 people are killed by COVID in the city instead of 400.
As the numbers slowly tick down, we have to be prepared for an entire city that will be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and an economy that’s off the rails. Combine the aftermath of 9/11 and New York’s dark fiscal days of the 1970s, and that barely begins to paint the picture of the challenges ahead.
There’s plenty of anger and finger-pointing going around – and some of it is well-deserved. But for New York to bounce back, we’re going to need a plan and a rallying cry that goes far beyond just someone taking their finger off a pause button or bringing back baseball. Live and let live.