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  1. Opinion

In these times of the coronavirus, here are some uplifting family stories of service and sacrifice

Here’s what readers are saying in Saturday’s letters to the editor.
A group of World War II veterans from Florida visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

An uplifting story of service


With people overwhelmed with fear and uncertainty, we need a story of hope. My grandfather, long passed, came from Italy in the early part of the 20th century. He was 14, had nothing and could not even speak English. Some years later, he met and married my grandmother. They started a life and family.

Tragically, their house burned to the ground, leaving them and their seven children homeless. My mother was one of those children. Around that same time, their family was confronted by the Great Depression. There were no social services or government backstops. Yet they made it through, stronger than ever.

Two of my grandfather’s sons, my uncles, served in World War II, one in Northern Africa and Europe, the other in the Pacific. They endured horrific circumstances to help save the world from totalitarianism. Miraculously, they made it through and returned home, starting families.

Their sons, my cousins, served our country in the Vietnam War, one on the front lines in the Marines. They too, made it through, returning home to start their own families.

These are stories of survival, under the most difficult of circumstances. From its founding, our country is a collection of miraculous stories about survival and coming out the other end stronger, more resilient. We will survive this crisis, and be better and stronger for it.

Finally, I share with your readers a portion of a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, dated January 1812. Its primary message should be applied to current circumstances:

“A letter from you ... carries me back to the times when, beset with difficulties and dangers, we were fellow laborers in the same cause, struggling for what is most valuable to man, his right of self-government.

“Laboring always at the same oar, with some wave ever ahead threatening to overwhelm us, and yet passing harmless ... we knew not how… we rode through the storm with heart and hand.”

Michael Mayo, St. Petersburg

Believe in vaccines

Will anti-vaxxers listen now? | Another voice, March 20

Neal Browning receives a shot in the first-stage study of a potential vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, March 16, 2020, at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. [TED S. WARREN | AP]

I was born in 1940 and went to school from 1945 to 1958. During those years, I remember kids dying. It wasn’t frequent, but from time to time a schoolmate wouldn’t show up, having died from scarlet fever, rheumatic fever, measles, encephalitis, measles, pneumonia or any of the various infectious diseases then rampant. All this was considered routine and a fact of life. I, personally, got mumps at 15 and was sick with a very high fever. I could well have bought it. The local pool was often closed because of polio outbreaks. I remember people severely crippled by polio, quite a few of them.

I was in Afghanistan in 1966. A not-uncommon sight there was an old man being led around by a little kid. His face, including his eyes, had been eaten out by smallpox sores. He had survived the disease but led a very constricted life. People who are against vaccines need to read some history.

Pete Wilford, Holiday

We should be better


President Donald Trump responds to a question by NBC News White House correspondent Peter Alexander during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, March 20, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) [EVAN VUCCI | AP]

Upon reading the numerous articles in the Tampa Bay Times regarding the coronavirus, I am disappointed to learn just how unprepared this country is for a pandemic. The greatest country in the world can’t provide enough tests for its citizens, our hospitals and doctors lack adequate protections, our airports and other entry points are understaffed, and our infrastructure is literally crumbling. In the face of that miserable preparation, we face rising sea levels, unprecedented climate change and a national security system that is under attack by a multitude of foreign entities both known and unknown. Yet, we push forward with billions in government funding for travel to the moon and Mars, and we can’t resist a foreign entanglement, neither of which addresses any of these pressing problems. In the coming months, we will pay trillions of dollars to contain the domino spread of the coronavirus, further exacerbating our national debt. Perhaps this coronavirus event provides a good opportunity for this country to step back and reevaluate our priorities to determine how best to spend our limited funds. One thing is clear: We must do a better job of investing in the future of our country.

Susie Borsani, St. Petersburg

The effect on students

The closure of Florida public schools makes sense in protecting the health of students, teachers and other staff members. But by law and necessity, schools are to afford students 180 days of structure, learning and cultural exposure as well as acting as their custodians, which helps working parents. The prize, though, is educating students in preparation to be citizens skilled enough for employment or pursuit of higher education.

It is unclear how long schools will be closed and what the effects and consequences for young people may be of staying home from the closed schools and relying on distance learning. Students in Florida are owed at least 180 days of education. Students should not be denied this, yet it is unclear how school systems will compensate for possible harm.

I am in an age cohort (over 60 years old), which is getting special positive attention. That policy makes sense but so does complete education of students who will define the future of America.

James Gillespie, St. Petersburg

Insider trading is wrong

In this photo provided by the New York Stock Exchange, traders John Romolo, left, and Leon Montana work on the trading floor on March 20, 2020. [NICOLE PEREIRA | AP]

So at least two U.S. senators receive very early classified briefings about the looming pandemic and sell stocks related to that problem, preventing their losses. That’s the definition of insider trading. Will they get away with it? Or is now okay for them and everyone else with insider information to cheat the public? Have “ethics” completely disappeared? Does “responsibility” no longer matter? Will they face consequences? If not, our nation’s values are eroding right before our eyes.

Doug Hicks, Tampa

How can we help you today?

President Ronald Reagan during a debate in 1984.

It was the worst of times, it was the best of times. First headline: “Stay home.” Second headline: “Free bus fares.” Like President Ronald Reagan once said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

Dale F. Gruver, Tampa