The good that arises from the ashes

I SEE similarities between the current Covid-19 pandemic and another incident that, for a while, seemed to threaten the world: 9/11.

I remember for a few days after the airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon on Sept 11, 2001, millions of us lived in fear of our world ending.

The 9/11 incident posed a challenge to our planet then and, like the Covid-19 pandemic, exposed our vulnerabilities at a macro level. But amidst such depressing moments in life there is immense hope that is not often broadcast through mainstream news channels.

One: Both in the aftermath of 9/11 and currently, masses of people and organisations came together to support one another. Helplines and services have been created where none existed before. We are prioritising the right questions: What do others need? How can I help? More people have become outward looking at a time when it is tempting to sit back and lick our own wounds.

Two: More people are taking stock of their lives and asking what is truly important to focus on. Even in the midst of unemployment, more and more are asking what kind of work is truly meaningful for them. The security of doing the same old, same old is no longer present. This has freed us to ask what we can do outside the box (that we may have sat in for years).

Three: Social distancing is the norm. But it has proven to be an effective way to reach out to people we have not kept in touch with via social media. More groups have formed via WhatsApp, Zoom, Facebook, LinkedIn and other such platforms. Not all may be productive but quite a few gems have emerged, from improvements in technology and the skills that go with it and increased focus on IT infrastructure, to increased psychosocial closeness with people who are physically distant. We have seen new friendships formed and even the healing of old family wounds.

It has not been easy. But having the experience of facing death in its face, collectively and globally within the same timeframe as a species, has increased empathy across our social strata.

There still remains much work to be done. Selfish and delusional politicians, police brutality, religious extremism, terrorists, and deadly diseases remain a reality. They will not likely disappear tomorrow with wishful thinking.

The 9/11 tragedy and the Covid-19 pandemic are real. But we are often unaware that there are many good works and efforts that have risen from the ashes. Humans, like other organisms, strive to survive. Each of our realities may be different. But in reaching out to one another, we can come to realise that not only can we overcome current adversity but also engage resiliently in a future where we can thrive together.

No terrorists or virus can take that away from us!


Kuala Lumpur

Note: The letter writer is a psychologist and a US Fulbrighter with a background in molecular biology and prevention science.
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letters , 9/11 , Covid-19 , pandemic


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