Prior to 2020, the worst year in my life had to be 1991. In the space of just three months, my wife and I bought a new house. Then I got fired. Then my wife's mom died. Then Senator John Heinz's plane collided with a helicopter in midair over a nearby public school, killing those in the aircraft and a child in the schoolyard. Then the Meridian Plaza fire in center city Philadelphia killed 3 firemen. Then Frank Rizzo collapsed in a men's room and died while running for mayor. After being fired I was recruited for a job as press secretary for the Philadelphia District Attorney only to be told I would have to move out of my brand new home in Havertown and become a Philadelphia resident. COBRA payments sucked away our money and nine months later, we were faced with selling our nice, new home.
Some good things also happened in 1991: My second son Jeff was born and my older son Dan and I bonded in Mrs. Bortnicker's kindergarten class where I was an occasional helper since I had the time. With Frank Rizzo out of the picture, Ed Rendell was elected Mayor. I was led to a new job at CBS News where I ended up with the best broadcasting job I ever had (producer on the overnight news). And last but not least, my dear old friend Dave Neal, may he rest In peace, took me to every diner along routes 30 and 70 in south Jersey, hoping meatloaf and mashed potatoes would heal my wounded soul.
Even with all that going on in 1991, 2020 was worse. Without belaboring the obvious, let's just say every single American's life was/is touched by the plague that is the Coronavirus or the incompetent apathy of President Donald Trump or both. Killings of black men by police laid bare institutional racism that persists in the USA almost 250 years after the words "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" were penned. The shared experiences Americans have endured in 2020 far eclipsed my string of personal bad luck during one single year. We're not going to know just how awful it's really been until later next year when things slowly get better and we can look back and take a full assessment. Unfortunately, a lot of people will be gone by then, maybe half a million. A lot of businesses will be gone by then. And while the stock market is making some folks richer by the day, middle class America will be hurting for a long time. Many lost jobs will never come back. Much of what's been lost will never come back.
I only used to fly my American flag during Memorial Day, July 4th and Veterans Day. This year, I left it up most of the year. It's up now because it symbolizes something bigger than any single person in the White House. Our election proved that American democracy is alive and well. The process worked despite every effort by the soulless misogynist calling himself President to overturn it.
My parents came to the US as immigrants in 1952. Until their dying days, they were proud of becoming US citizens and were the most fervent patriots I've ever known. I can't say for sure what they would have thought of Donald Trump, but I'm pretty sure they would have been proud to be part of a population that set a new record for voter turnout and proud that the system wasn't overturned by a despot.
Good riddance to 2020 and here's to new hope, family and the return of fun in 2021.