The New York Times displayed the names of the first 100,000 people who died from COVID-19 on the front page of their May 24 issue in an attempt to both unsettle and help their readers comprehend the ever-growing statistic that they had seen skyrocket since the pandemic began. As the months have gone on, and as the death toll has continued to increase, it has become much harder to actually grasp a statistic as large as 450,000. As sad as it may sound, the vast majority of us cannot actually discern a difference between 100,000 and 450,000 deaths. Thus, as the death toll jumped from 200,000 to 300,000 and 300,000 to 400,000, these statistics did not elicit the same, shocking and terrifying reaction that they once did.
Yet, when we lose a single individual who meant so much to us either as a family member, a friend, a loved one or a fellow community member, that one loss has a much more profound impact on our consciousness and well-being than any six-digit number. Members of the Masters community recently experienced such a loss in the passing of Panton Adams, a man who represented the heart and soul of our school. He embodied what it meant to be a community builder, and he treated every individual on campus with the same, extraordinary level of respect and kindness.
Such a loss not only leaves an overwhelming sense of heavy-heartedness with each of us, but it also forces us to confront the terrifying reality that each one of the 450,000 people who have died meant something to somebody. Each one of their deaths disrupted and fractured a social network that relied upon their presence and virtue. As dispiriting as this may be, it is only through experiencing the loss of one that we can begin to better understand just how many meaningful individuals have passed away over the last ten months.
Despite the discomfort we feel, we must not get numbed into an unaware and anesthetized mindset as we climb towards half a million dead. Instead, we must let our new reality and truth guide us towards keeping ourselves and those around us safe. Going forward, we must remember the sacredness and value that each and every human life holds.