With cautious optimism, let’s celebrate Thanksgiving

Many families here and in most other parts of the United States are returning to their traditional Thanksgiving celebrations today, buoyed by vaccine-based cautious optimism that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is over.

Perhaps the worst is over, but for many families with members still struggling with the lingering after-effects of the virus — remembrances of family members or friends who lost their battle against COVID-19, or some survivors still experiencing ongoing physical challenges stemming from their illness — Thanksgiving 2021 will not be anything near a triumphant return to normalcy.

Still, cautious optimism probably is the most notable item on this feast day’s menu in most homes, slightly ahead of, or slightly behind, the traditional holiday meal of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, a preferred vegetable and favorite beverage.

Some current senior citizens old enough to remember Thanksgiving Day 1944 probably remember the cautious optimism that prevailed on that day as the end of World War II seemed reachable just over the proverbial horizon.

For Altoona, though, a tragic incident on Nov. 17 at the Central Court building on Fourth Street in the city, in which Rhonda Jean Russell, a Blair County corrections officer, was killed, shattered what should have been positive anticipation about today’s holiday.

On this day, which centers on the concepts of thankfulness and appreciation, people of the county should be mindful of Russell’s dedication to the important tasks she carried out daily in her work. Likewise, they should reflect on the grief and loss that Russell’s family and friends are feeling today as they strive to recover from the shock and emptiness that Nov. 17’s incident inflicted upon them in an instant.

For most families not suffering from tragedies and losses on this day, an extension of President George Washington’s October 1789 declaration setting aside Nov. 26 of that year as a day for expressing gratitude for the creation of the United States of America, today will be a coming-home of some semblance of life as it was before the pandemic.

Holiday travel has experienced a resurgence, despite the ongoing difficulties with which the airline industry continues to deal.

Despite some remaining uneasiness, many families are opting for larger Thanksgiving meal gatherings than what they chose to have last year.

It is important to acknowledge, though, that people of some areas of the country where vaccinations have lagged are not having a pre-pandemic-like holiday because of all the sickness and suffering still going on around them.

Anne Marie Chaker, a Wall Street Journal writer, observed in a piece published on Nov. 17 that “people are weary of pandemic precautions, and feel safer getting together now that vaccines are available to everyone except children under 5. Many families say they want to celebrate in the usual way — indoors, without masks, with more of their relatives and friends.”

However, a big question now is whether there will be another spike in COVID cases with direct ties to today’s holiday gatherings.

Last year at this time, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Americans not to travel on Thanksgiving, and many families heeded that advice.

But this year is different.

For most households, the best advice for today is to enjoy the holiday, but with the realization that an enemy remains alive, albeit significantly constrained.

Do your vital part to ensure that Thanksgiving 2022 will be much better than today.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *


Starting at $4.39/week.

Subscribe Today