Last November — an eternity ago — Americans were hunkered down, masked up and tangling with the unthinkable of not seeing family and friends for the holidays. The pandemic is still here. COVID-19 cases are increasing in some parts of the country. But the nation this Thanksgiving is in a far different place — safer, newly confident, better prepared and more surely on the rebound. It’s another reminder of the durability of American life and of the many blessings that we should recognize and celebrate today.
There’s no discounting the human, emotional and economic toll the coronavirus continues to wreak across the country. The pandemic has robbed Americans of their loved ones, security and routines. The losses have created enduring heartache and a blow to the national psyche. But it also seems unimaginable that vaccines unavailable not 12 months ago have so profoundly changed life for the better.
We are not back to normal yet, but are getting there, and this Thanksgiving has reawakened the meaning of holidays and tradition. It is worth remembering that the first national Thanksgiving was proclaimed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 in the throes of another national crisis, a Civil War that rent the young nation and cost 750,000 American lives. He saw hope amid that tumult in the same way that we do today, even as the American death toll from the pandemic — 775,000 — now surpasses that deadliest time in American history.
Even after two difficult years, it’s worth stepping back and looking beyond the debtor side of the ledger. The outlook for the state and the regional economy is strong, with upshots in retail, tourism and real estate. The dreaded hurricane season is headed to end on a whimper, a literal lifesaver for low-lying, coastal Florida. The state is finally making key investments in hardening its infrastructure, an overdue response to the warming climate. The area’s downtowns and beaches remain magnets for visitors and residents alike. And Tampa’s Bay’s winning sports teams have provided a timely boost to civic unity and pride and welcome distractions from the bad news of the day.
Travel this holiday has nearly recovered to pre-pandemic levels, as Americans look to reconnect and get on with their lives. There also is an appreciation of the lessons learned from our various stages of isolation. Americans threw in on a multitude of causes, from helping neighbors in their communities make ends meet to helping seniors and children remain in touch with the people and moments that make life special.
Of course, nobody with any sense is declaring mission accomplished yet, and it remains to be seen how packed airports, holiday gatherings and hauls at the malls this week will impact infections across the country. The tried-and-true defenses remain — get vaccinated, wear masks in crowded indoor settings and if in doubt, get tested. These are small things to be asked for in the service of our fellow countrymen.
But there’s also a flip side this year — the opportunity after so long to savor the traditions of Thanksgiving and the entire holiday season. The family gathering may be a tireless cliche, but it’s also a source of strength and warmth for untold millions, a treasure that many took for granted until it was lost. So we can be thankful this Thanksgiving holiday for the chance again to share it, even if gas prices are too high and the turkey’s overdone.
Spend your days with Hayes
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Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Paul Tash. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.