Today’s theme is about taking the time to acknowledge the heroes among us. Looking back, it is hard to remember what the world looked like a year ago. On this day in 2020, there were fewer than 100 cases of COVID-19 anywhere in the country. The first case to reach Western New York was still more than a week away. The community was scrambling to prepare. During the past year, we have rightfully taken time to celebrate many great accomplishments, truly heroic acts of science and humanity. Today, however, I want to take a moment to celebrate the ordinary heroism we see every day that so often goes unrecognized and unacknowledged.
Major Dick Winters was a veteran of World War II who gained long-overdue recognition with the publication of his book, “Band of Brothers.” That book is the story of his experience with “Easy Company” during the European campaign. In the book, he relates a story about his grandson asking him if he had been a hero during the war. As an answer, Winters replied, “I said to him no I’m not a hero, but I have served in a company full of them.” While the world in which Major Winters lived and the war in which he fought are very different than our own, his central message holds true across the years. In a time when our communities needed people to stand up and help fight the pandemic, it was the healthcare workers of Western New York who stood up.
We are now almost a year into this struggle. People are tired, and the work we do has taken on an air of the routine. I caution you not to fall into the trap of complacency. The world may have adopted to the “new normal,” and wearing protective garments to work may no longer feel strange, but this does not mean that the work we are doing is ordinary. These are exceptional times. The pandemic is not over, and while it may not feel brave to show up at work and take care of patients every day, standing on the front lines in health care during a pandemic is a daily act of heroism. We should acknowledge it in ourselves and appreciate it in our co-workers.