The Olympics have been held every four years since 1896 with three exceptions- World War I, World War II, and Covid-XIX. 2020 has been a year of great sacrifices; we have sacrificed sociality, entertainment, and business in order to fight off an invading foe. But what can we learn from former years of great depravations?
During World War II, Great Britain's mainland allies fell in rapid succession during 1939 and 1940, putting enormous pressure on them to capitulate to the Germans. English troops evacuated the continent at Dunkirk in June 1940 and didn't set another foot back in France until D-Day, 4 years later. During the four intervening years they were under near constant threat of invasion, new enemies and air raids. Hitler's plan for invasion relied of air superiority and submission, but he was never to obtain either.
Winston Churchill's famous "We Will Fight Them" speech reflected the resilience of his entire nation, who had already implemented Operation Pied Piper, an effort to relocate nearly one million children from cities and coastlines most at risk. Traveling by train and boat, children were sent to safer places, rural areas and across the seas to Canada, South Africa and Australia.
For 57 straight nights in 1940, bombs burst on the streets of London in a period known simply as The Blitz. Over 30,000 were killed (nearly 25% of those were children) and over 80,000 wounded, with millions of buildings damaged or destroyed. Some of the children casualties were from those who bravely volunteered during the raids as messengers or fire-watchers. By the time these children returned back home, some were speaking in different accents, some hadn't seen their parents in years, some were sent over the ocean and never came home, some no longer wanted to go home (I'm sure some of you parents are not surprised by that), and some went away and were still killed by the war.
One in five schools were damaged by bombings and two thousand were requisitioned for the war effort. Across the country they held class outside in large groups (last century's distance learning) if they could find a teacher, and read books if they were lucky enough to have some. In short, these kids were incredibly resilient, patient, and brave.
NPR reported in April 2020 that "4 in 10 U.S. teens say they haven't done online learning since schools closed" and only two thirds are keeping in regular touch with their schools. Somewhat like the Blitz, Florida was in lockdown for about 60 days as well. Our kids have been evacuated from their schools, though they didn't have to travel nearly as far. The effects on them have been warlike and in many cases their lives have been more disrupted than their parent's.
Even though the battle against Coronavirus is ongoing we must emerge from the rubble, clean up the streets, return to life, and face the fight head-on. It was valor that won the Great War and it will win this one. Our kids have been patient and I believe they will be brave if given the opportunity.