Declare victory, announce a day of celebration, a declaration of gratitude for the heroic efforts of our front-line workers and an acknowledgement of the scientific triumph identifying and developing a vaccine in such a short time.
Evanston RoundTable, Sept. 16, 2020
With the recent 75th anniversary of V-J Day, Victory over Japan, which brought World War II to an end, it’s not hard to imagine V-C Day, Victory over COVID-19. That will be the day we celebrate the end of the damnpendic’s restrictive grip on our lives, when we finally ditch our masks, return safely to our schools and workplaces, and take our children, grandchildren and dearest friends in hand and grace them with warm hugs and kisses.
What a day it will be—when we can go back to museums and movie theaters, flock to ballparks and concert halls, go shopping, eat out, travel freely, attend religious services and head to the beaches, parks and playgrounds to congregate without fear of infection.
Life that once seemed so mundane will sparkle with joy.
Maybe it will resemble the scenes of joy that erupted across the nation on V-J Day. America celebrated V-E Day in May 1945 after Germany surrendered, but Americans and our allies were still anxious about the impending invasion of Japan, which was expected to be long and bloody. “In Evanston,” reported the Evanston History Center, “people poured into the streets, celebrating, but subdued, still very much aware that the war was not entirely over. Now, the world turned its eyes toward the Pacific Theater where the war was still raging.”
Japan’s sudden and unconditional surrender three months later set off celebrations across the land.
In Evanston, according to the History Center, “[a] sound truck appeared and the crowds sang war-time songs and danced on a section of the Sherman Avenue pavement which was blocked off. The city’s service flag was unfurled from the City Hall. As a climax of the evening’s celebration the members of the fire department burned an effigy of Emperor Hirohito at the foot of the Fountain Square flagpole.”
In Chicago’s Chinatown, the Tribune reported, a ceremonial dragon danced the streets and fireworks were set off to mark the end of Japan’s brutal subjugation of China.
In New York City, amidst the joyous celebration in Times Square, a sailor wrapped his arms around a nurse and planted a passionate smooch, a scene that was famously photographed by Alfred Eisenstaedt.
“The image,” according to the art website Widewalls, “which captures the joy and relief of that momentous day, was published in Life magazine on Aug. 27, 1945, warranting a full page of its own as part of a larger, multi-page feature titled, simply, ‘Victory Celebrations.’ It became a cultural icon overnight, a symbol of triumph and celebration, forming the basis of our collective memory of that cathartic moment in world history.”
I think our victory over the hated virus will generate similar feelings of joy and relief, triumph and celebration—as well as somber remembrance of the hundreds of thousands of lives lost. But if there is to be a V-C Day, when will it take place? Our pre-COVID “normal” life won’t resume on a single day but in fits and starts, as schools and businesses as well as individuals slowly gain confidence that the virus is licked.
Still, why not? Declare victory, announce a day of celebration, a declaration of gratitude for the heroic efforts of our front-line workers and an acknowledgement of the scientific triumph identifying and developing a vaccine in such a short time. The actual date can be based on achieving certain global or national milestones, perhaps when there is widespread utilization of rapid antigen tests and a safe and effective vaccine that drives down the infection rate and raises herd immunity to acceptable levels.
Whatever those parameters are, count me in. On V-C Day I will be front and center at the bonfire of the masks. In fact, I will be the first to light the torch.