Post by Jennifer Passey
City of Fairfax Council Member, Writer, and Future Podcaster
It has now been one full week since the Governor of Virginia announced all K-12 schools closed for the remainder of the academic year and all non essential businesses to close. Like many families, we are in the midst of figuring out how to telework, e-learn and best use this generous gift of time together while experiencing feelings of anxiety, worry and frustration. Early on, over dinner, my family discussed how this new way of life amidst the coronavirus crisis feels familiar.
How can life with a pandemic feel familiar, you ask?
Almost five years ago, we faced a different kind of tragedy and threat. At the time we didn't know it, but it was to prepare us for the days to come. Every step tells a story...choosing to move across the world led down this path.
In September 2015 we had just begun the new year and our second year living in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Our family was posted there at the U.S. Embassy. Our eldest, Eamon, was in 7th grade, Liam in 5th grade, and the twins, Colin and Declan were just a few weeks into Kindergarten, the beginning of their school career. We were in our second floor flat when a message came across the Embassy provided radio, which only became active on our "radio check" day. We were told to "shelter in place" immediately.
The guards posted at our building escorted the boys to their school bus each morning.
An Italian aid worker had been shot and killed while walking in our neighborhood. ISIS claimed responsibility. It all of a sudden became quite real. The first incident of many that threatened our security and safety as expats in Bangladesh. Of course we had heard of ISIS, but they were the terrorist militant group on the news -- not active in our neighborhood. Immediately all members of the U.S. Embassy community were put on restricted movement. This meant no walks outside through the neighborhood. We were restricted to our flat, the embassy owned/leased areas and the school. No going to church. No restaurants. No friends’ houses. And, the boys’ bus ride to school included an armed Dhaka policeman.
We were unable to attend church, so Sundays were a day
of rest and reflection as a family.
During that year of restricted movement, our community went through waves of emotions and everyone’s cycles of emotion were different. Anger, frustration, sadness, depression, and even acceptance. Emotions similar to the five stages of grief. We had lost our way of life, our freedom.
Dinner with friends at Holey Bakery just a couple weeks before militants stormed in and killed 22 people .
Today —around the globe— people are grieving their freedom. We see rants on Facebook about how we are overreacting. We see people pleading for help on the news. We see neighbors generously helping other neighbors. All of these people are allowed to feel what they feel. It is important for us to give each other space — not just social distancing space— but emotional space to feel the way one feels about it all. We all come into this crisis with different circumstances and our emotions will manifest themselves in surprising ways. Be patient with yourself. Be patient with those around. We will be a stronger community going forward if we support each other. Every choice is a step towards where we find ourselves, and what we share makes us stronger.
The boys and I take one last photo in the garage as we head to the airport to leave Dhaka.
So, I leave you with this memory....a simple reminder from someone who spent a full YEAR in restricted movement. Begin with gratitude, be creative, be compassionate, and find joy each day amidst the chaos & uncertainty. And take a step.