From the editor: A pandemic and the lessons that we learned

Staffers from RUMC’s pediatric department join executive vice president Dr. Peter Carpenito, left, and chief operating officer and chief nurse officer, Rosemary Stazzone, second left, in giving a thumbs up to their pediatric patient discharged after treatment for COVID-19. These are the heroes. (Courtesy/RUMC/Alexander Lutz) Staten Island AdvanceStaten Island Advance

We’ve learned an awful lot since March 7. That was the day we lost our first Staten Island neighbor to the coronavirus.

We’ve re-learned how quickly life can be stolen – this time, by an enemy unseen, and till now, a stranger.

We’ve spent two months of our lifetimes trying to save lives. Not as medical professionals. But as responsible citizens. Is that really so much? Is it so excruciating not going to the beach, to the mall, the corner bar or neighborhood bistro? Not seeing grandma or the grandkids?

To save a life? Some of our neighbors are itching to play Russian Roulette – with our lives. I saw a tweet the other day from a loud-mouthed New York talk radio guy. He called people walking the streets in Manhattan “morons” – because they were wearing masks.

At the risk of being dramatic, Anne Frank spent more than two years hiding in an attic during World War II. She spent her time writing a diary. Something I’m sure those yearning for a sausage-and-pepper on the Seaside Heights boardwalk this summer will scoff at.

We’ve re-learned, on the other hand, that many, many Staten Islanders are inherently good and step up in a crisis. So many times at their own peril. Sometimes kids making goodie bags for The Front Line. Other times, moms and dads delivering food to seniors who can’t get out. Or just putting up a few bucks to buy masks or gloves.

I learned that cops and firefighters aren’t our only heroes. I learned health care workers stand tall with the bravest out there. I learned my life is as important to them as is their own. Maybe . . . somehow . . . even more.

Is there really any difference between facing a guy with a loaded gun, breaking into a burning building, and working face-to-face with hundreds of people near death with a virus that could just as easily send those health care pros into the same tailspin? You can talk a gunman off the ledge. You can quell a raging blaze. This killer virus? We don’t know how to defeat it yet.

Being in the house ‘round the clock for seven weeks I’ve learned Carol, the wife I’ve known for over 50 years, is a chatterbox. I mean, C H A T T E R B O X !! If she’s not talking to me, she’s talking to one of our three kids. Their spouses. The grandkids. Her pal Connie in Orlando. Lissette, a Staten Islander hunkering down in North Carolina. Cousin Debbie . . . She’ll even talk to herself. Now I get why Maezie – she’s the dog – tried to bolt out the door every time I came home pre-lockdown. Her little head was pounding.

I’ve re-learned how much my neighbors rely on the Advance and SILive. What really holds us together in this vast city, where Staten Island is usually an afterthought?

Love or hate what you believe our politics, the Advance on your doorstep and SILive on any electronic device are your only ways to get it. Fun news of drive-by parties, virtual weddings and drive-by marriage proposals. Tragic news of corona deaths and positive tests. Uplifting news of the 99-year-old who beat it. The light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel news of corona hospital stays dropping. The tragedy of mounting Verrazzano Bridge suicides. The daily report on who’s-open-who’s-closed-and-what-are-today’s-specials at your favorite food place.

I’ve re-learned to admire our news team. Even more. Mostly young journalists — reporters, photographers, videographers and editors — out there daily to bring it all to you. They do it through SILIve, print and every new-fangled social media platform you use.

No, we’re not the cops or the firefighters or the health care workers. They’re in a league all their own.

But we are people who chose a profession that when disaster strikes and you stay home, we go out. There’s no such thing as a newsroom closed for the holiday. A snowstorm. A blackout. A hurricane . . . a pandemic.

Yet our Advance/ staff is not immune to the struggles you experience. Our team is in the midst of unpaid furloughs and sliding across-the-board salary reductions. We do live in your world.

The pandemic has been relentless and our coverage has been too. When I came to you for your financial support a few weeks ago, it wasn’t to give raises or pay our electric bill.

It was to support local journalism the way it needs to be done: Twenty-four-hours, seven days. Accurately and quickly, when you need it.

Newspaper tradition had it that ad revenue is the backbone of journalism’s financial health. No argument. But the key word is “tradition.” The business of journalism has changed. Ad revenue took a nosedive in the late 2000’s economic meltdown. With it, so did the fate of many local daily papers.

The Advance and SILive made adjustments but worked hard to never to let you down. This latest blow to the financial health of America is a gut punch to just about every business out there. And when Staten Island’s businesses take the hit, so do we.

Hundreds of our neighbors stepped up with a $10-a-month subscription to help us continue to do what we are doing.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but I’m dropping by again today with a gentle reminder. If you’re able, our team values your support. Ten bucks a month might be a lot for some, not for others.

For us, it’s huge, and not just in dollars and cents. It’s a statement in support of Staten Island journalism in city where our community is too-often forgotten. It’s a pat on the back to everyone on my team who gets up in the morning, or goes out in the middle of the night, with one mission: Keeping you informed.

Oh by the way: The little mention up above about that chatterbox thing and my wife . . . well, maybe I exaggerated a little. But I’ll tell you this – I’m hiding her phone and iPad and the Sunday Advance is going to find its way to the recycling bin pretty quickly. Not that I’m scared or anything . . .

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Post time: May-18-2020

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