It never snows in Long Beach, but the ash falling on cars eerily resembles that graceful snowfall that covers the East Coast during winter. I watch from the inside of my home as the bright blue skies of summer quickly morphed into a haunting orange haze, once again brought upon us by this year’s fire season.
The annual fire season is unfortunately familiar to California residents, but to say that this year feels different would be the understatement of the century.
I never would have imagined that my final year of college would be spent attending classes in my room, obsessively wondering when it will be safe to hug my loved ones again, reading about civil unrest in the Black community and trying to ignore the haunting orange glow hanging above my house.
These days pass slowly and I couldn’t feel less alive.
Quarantining for the last six months has almost been futile, all these sacrifices, only to find ourselves where we started. Now we’re not only wearing masks to prevent contraction of the coronavirus, but to ensure we don’t breathe ash into our lungs. COVID-19 and unhealthy air quality are equal threats holding us hostage in our own homes. I’m lucky enough to be in an area that doesn’t require evacuation, but I can’t say the same for the thousands of people displaced due to the extreme conditions of this terror.
Scrolling through social media only twists the knife further into my back. The photos of Oregon under blood red skies while immigrant workers inhale smoke in the fields just so we have food on our tables, all of it is just devastating. If I scroll a little further, my timeline shows photos of people going out and gathering without masks. I toss my phone across the room, lay back in my bed and just laugh.
Am I going insane?
Why am I deliberately choosing to stay home terrified for my life, while others couldn’t care less about everything going on? If I didn’t know any better, I’d believe that this pandemic is a hoax, solely based on how everyone seems to act like it doesn’t exist.
I’m angry, I’m confused and I feel so helpless.
My mind always goes back to “What could I have done better?” as if I could have prevented a global pandemic and natural disaster. But I can’t help but think that we could have done more to prevent things from getting this bad.
We’ve been warned repeatedly about the effects that climate change will inevitably have on our planet, but we’ve never listened. Temperatures continue to rise, allowing the fire season to begin earlier and end later each year. The harsh reality we need to accept is that our actions have consequences. The survival of this earth heavily depends on whether or not we decide to take care of it, and the West Coast fires are only one of many telling signs that we’re not protecting our planet the way we should.
We’ve been told to stay inside and wear our masks, but here we are 6.5 million confirmed national cases later and no sign of it getting any better. We live under the leadership of someone who, until very recently, was in denial of the virus. The current presidential administration heavily influences how the rest of the country chooses to approach the virus. As they so clearly exemplified, our approach is ignorance.
Medical professionals advising against large gatherings are quickly overruled by a president eager to hold in-person events without masks.
How can we ever expect an end to all of this when this is how our leaders are approaching this?
The knife twists further into our backs, little did we realize that we’re the ones who put it there.
Isolating myself in my home now in September almost feels like a joke because it seems like no one else cares. I feel this responsibility to take this as seriously as I can because I wouldn’t be able to handle the guilt of getting a loved one sick. But even if I do everything right, there’s still the very real possibility that it wouldn’t be enough. We’ve been stuck in this limbo, closing and reopening society. It’s hard to imagine a finite ending.
In the end it’s a matter of each of us taking a hard look at how we have personally approached these instances. It’s being honest with whether we have our community’s best interest in mind or are willing to throw it all out the window for five minutes of fun. What is it worth?
We can not afford to be selfish. We can not afford to risk anymore lives. The choices we make affect others. It’s as simple as that. I’m nowhere near perfect. I don’t have the solutions, but here I am trying my best so that I can look back and say that I did everything I could.