Esquire (USA) - - 20 LIVES, 20 PER­SPEC­TIVES -

talk to vic­tims and sur­vivors has changed, par­tic­u­larly in places where re­sources have been af­fected by the virus. Stay­ing with a fam­ily mem­ber may not be an op­tion be­cause of so­cial dis­tanc­ing. Some safe shel­ters are not able to take peo­ple in.

creative. Can we help with ho­tel vouch­ers? Are there safe places nearby to park their car while they search for that next step?

if a con­tact is un­able to get out, we talk about ways to stay safe while at home. “Is there a place in the house that you can go ev­ery day? Just to have five min­utes to your­self, to think about all the things that you’ve done to get to this point. How strong you are, how re­silient you are.”

con­tacts are re­ally show­ing up for that val­i­da­tion. By just be­ing there, by lis­ten­ing to their sto­ries, we’re let­ting them know that we un­der­stand what they’re go­ing through. We try to in­still some sem­blance of hope in their sit­u­a­tion.

that we do—as with any trauma work—def­i­nitely takes a toll. I’ve been amazed by our team’s re­silience and how well we’ve stayed con­nected vir­tu­ally. Hav­ing oth­ers around who can sup­port you, who can be there for you, who can en­cour­age you and lift you up, is very pow­er­ful. That’s al­ways im­por­tant, but even more so now.

—As told to S. R.

Ge­or­gia, was in the top five for cases per capita on the planet. We’re not New York. We’re a small town filled with farm­ers, and doc­tors and nurses from the hos­pi­tal, and it’s a much sim­pler life. We got knocked down, and as a com­mu­nity we’re pick­ing each other back up and con­tin­u­ing to fight.

I stood in front of four­teen mon­i­tors. I looked at those mon­i­tors, and I re­al­ized that all of those pa­tients were go­ing to die and there was noth­ing I could do. It was this over­whelm­ing feel­ing of pow­er­less­ness.

other. We’re not sup­posed to, but we hug each other.

a pa­tient to­day. I was walk­ing down the hall to check on some­body’s ven


some­thing. You have to be there for the peo­ple—they were there for me for twenty years. I just didn’t know what I was go­ing to do. But some­times that’s the start of the best ideas. You just have to make a de­ci­sion to do it.

show for ten years, you just keep adding more stuff, get­ting slicker. The pro­duc­tion value height­ens. When I’m wear­ing a suit and makeup and all that stuff, I re­ally feel like there’s a lot of phoni­ness, or stuff that can come across as phoni­ness. The au­di­ence is laugh­ing, but maybe they’re just be­ing po­lite. Maybe what I just said wasn’t funny, I don’t know. And maybe you tense up. I’m not re­ally a stand-up co­me­dian. I don’t want to tell funny sto­ries.

peel it all back, it’s like, All right, who are you? It forces your brain to be creative in ways that I haven’t done in years. I have no crew, I have no staff here, I have no light­ing. My wife is my direc­tor and my cam­era op­er­a­tor. I don’t know if it’s fight-or-flight, but your in­stinct takes over. It shows who you re­ally are. It shows your char­ac­ter.

thing to this ex­pe­ri­ence was New York af­ter 9/11. I was on Satur­day Night Live and I didn’t know what to do, where to turn, or whom to talk to. I re­mem­ber go­ing to the late-night hosts— I’d watch Co­nan, Jay Leno, David Let­ter­man—to hear what they were say­ing. And I re­mem­ber David Let­ter­man had a great line about courage: that some­times pre­tend­ing to be coura­geous is just as good.

learned through this: My role is to be there for peo­ple in some way. I’m lucky to be in a po­si­tion to maybe help some­one get through this by giv­ing their brain a lit­tle bal­ance with all of the aw­ful out there.

we end up with when this is over. The show will look dif­fer­ent. Then again, it might feel just right.

if I can put on a suit again. I would feel odd com­ing out in a suit.

—As told to Matt Miller

be­gan in this coun­try, it was like, “Don’t worry, it’s only life-threat­en­ing for those who are high-risk. It’s just a bad flu for the rest of us.” In this critical time, when scarcity is a re­al­ity, you see the hi­er­ar­chy. Cer­tain groups are val­ued over oth­ers. This is the world that so many dis­abled and chron­i­cally ill peo­ple al­ready live in. Our lives are still seen as ex­pend­able. Now the mag­ni­tude is much greater.

brought about changes to ac­ces­si­bil­ity for things that dis­abled peo­ple have been ad­vo­cat­ing for for­ever. You see artists stream­ing per­for­mances. You see peo­ple work­ing re­motely. When dis­abled peo­ple asked for those very rea­son­able ac­com­mo­da­tions, we’ve been told, “You can’t do that. It’s too hard.” Twice I was in­vited to be on a panel at South by South­west, and each time I said, “I don’t travel. I want to do this via Skype.” Both times I was told no. “There are too many is­sues.” That was the ex­cuse!

for com­ing out of this pan­demic is that we don’t re­turn to the sta­tus quo. Many don’t re­al­ize that “nor­mal” was ac­tu­ally not great for a lot of peo­ple. Just be­cause all of the nondis­abled peo­ple go back to work—or to Burn­ing Man, or to Coachella—that doesn’t mean we should stop think­ing about ac­ces­si­bil­ity. —As told to Madi­son Vain

so hard is that no one with COVID can have vis­i­tors. I find that I’m do­ing a lot of calls to fam­ily mem­bers of COVID pa­tients, be­cause they’re not al­lowed to come in. That’s very emo­tion­ally drain­ing on me, too. There’s sor­row. There’s grief. do­ing a spir­i­tual as­sess­ment over the phone have def­i­nitely im­proved. I have had some re­ally amaz­ing con­ver­sa­tions with pa­tients. I called this young guy, in his twen­ties, who had COVID. To­ward the end of our con­ver­sa­tion, he was like, “I was not ex­pect­ing this to­day. This was re­ally good. Thank you so much.” We prayed to­gether, and it was re­ally mean­ing­ful for him—for some­one to reach out and ac­knowl­edge his suf­fer­ing and ask if he wanted to pray. where a gen­tle­man who’d been mar­ried for over fifty years was only al­lowed to stay with his wife for an hour. [She didn’t have COVID-19.] I blessed her with holy wa­ter and said the Prayer of Com­men­da­tion and pro­vided spir­i­tual sup­port. He was at risk just by be­ing in the hos­pi­tal, but he had to say good­bye. We were on the el­e­va­tor walk­ing out of the hos­pi­tal to­gether, and he was like,

call us “es­sen­tial,” you’ve got to think about our health. Our health is just as es­sen­tial. coun­try is play­ing catch-up now be­cause we weren’t pre­pared—the same thing hap­pened at the ware­house. In the mid­dle of March, we ac­tu­ally had a party with a DJ and a pop­corn ma­chine. I was like, “Where’s the cau­tion?” There was none. There was no safety. It was busi­ness as usual. my col­league tested pos­i­tive. We were both su­per­vi­sors, process as­sis­tants. There was no trans­parency. Man­age­ment was told not to tell our em­ploy­ees, but I couldn’t stand for that. I’d built re­la­tion­ships with th­ese peo­ple. I saw them more than I saw my own kids, so for me not to say any­thing was just in­san­ity. So my co­worker and I came back to the build­ing off the clock, on our own free will, and we sat in the cafe­te­ria break room and told the truth. And that’s when we started to form a coali­tion. the first re­spon­ders—we see that there needs to be a change in the bal­ance of power. Cap­i­tal­ism prof­its off of lower- and mid­dle-class peo­ple, es­pe­cially dur­ing this time, when it’s life or death. And th­ese bil­lion­aires, they’re still


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