We’re only halfway through, but 2020 is already a year for the ages. Cincinnati and the nation are struggling with the worst pandemic in 100 years, the sharpest economic downturn since the Great Depression, and scenes of protest and violence straight out of the 1960s. Simultaneously.
It can feel like a bleak time, like all of the levers of power are aligned against the average person, particularly those on the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder. In the rush to reopen, are we making people, especially those in service jobs, choose between employment and health? When will our children be back at school? Will our restaurants, arts venues, sports teams, neighborhood businesses, and community gatherings—a huge part of our economy and our humanity—return to some sense of normal? Lots of questions, and not many answers.
But there’s hope. There’s always hope, if you open your heart. I’m not talking about unrealistic hope in a magic pill that “makes Cincinnati great again” and transports us back to an idyllic pre-pandemic time. Life wasn’t perfect before COVID-19, remember—most of the challenges, divisions, and inequities brought to light by the virus, the job losses, and George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis have been raging for a while.
I mean hope based on previous experience dealing with tragedy and healing a community. In this month’s cover stories, we examine five times in Cincinnati’s history that a natural, manmade, or health disaster brought the region to its knees. We were stunned by devastation, struggled to find appropriate responses, disagreed over how to proceed, and occasionally let things backslide—but we eventually found a way forward. And often we made long-term improvements to shape a better city.
We don’t know what the rest of 2020 will bring, but we do know where we’ve been as a community and how we overcame previous bleak times together. The storm clouds did eventually pass, and the sun came back out. Maybe that’s wishful thinking on my part, but I don’t know a better option right now.