My COVID-19 Firestorm Experience in Italy, by Z.

My trial by fire: What did the pandemic teach you about the people around you (and about yourself)?

First of all, let me introduce myself: I’m an Italian Red Cross volunteer with several years of experience in emergency first response and social service. I apologize if my English is not adequate, but after discovering this blog I thought you could appreciate my insights about the COVID-19 pandemic regardless.

I see that on this website there are many articles about technical preparedness, and even if I haven’t read everything that’s been published since spring 2020 to this day, I’m sure that topics like masks, sanitizing equipment, checking if your prep gear is working properly after the emergency is over, and the like have been covered extensively.

I’m ready to bet that there’s a topic that has not been covered, though: people.

Bear with me and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

I read that here many are Christians. Well, they surely know that the Bible says that everyone’s true character and faith is revealed “in the fire”, like gold is tested in the furnace. There’s no need to be a believer to know that this is a great truth, and I’ve seen it proved during the pandemic.

Especially (unfortunately not only) in the first weeks of the COVID outbreak, the situation in Italy was really hard. We had no masks and protective gear to wear, This disease was unknown, lethal and seemingly unstoppable, the healthcare system (one of the best in the world) was collapsing. The Government seemed at a loss, unable to provide materials and solutions. In that darkest weeks, every Italian was tested by God (for the nonbelievers, by history, destiny, or whatever) and had to show what he/she was made of.

I know of a nurse that seeing the situation escalate, suddenly took a week off and went to Poland (he had spent some months there years before, during his university years) and managed to stay there till Italy was on lockdown and every flight suspended, to avoid working when the risk was higher (he remained blocked there for months), his parents boasted about his ‘wisdom’… On the other hand, many retired and very rich former doctors who could have stayed safe volunteered to go back to the hospitals for free, to help their younger colleagues in need, and several died.

When schools were closed, some teachers said they wouldn’t use their personal computers to teach kids online and refused any contact with them till they received technology paid by the government, while others while Rome was purchasing stuff kept the lessons going using their personal internet connection and computers.

In the first weeks, masks were impossible to find, even in ICU the healthcare personnel reused them over and over (it’s not bad luck if so many doctors fell ill themselves.) Some people who had the luck to own some sold them at incredibly high prices. (Before the government forbade that, there were places where you could see one surgical mask for 50 Euros, and one NC95 for 100 Euros). On the other hand, dentists, tattoo studios, car mechanics, etc. emptied their storages and gave every mask and protection vest they had, for free, to hospitals and the Red Cross. (That’s the only thing that allowed us to keep going on, in the first month).

Many doctors and nurses in those first weeks felt that going home to their families was too risky, so they slept on colleagues’ couches and spare beds. In some buildings the neighbors put up cards like “doctors unwelcome” because they feared they could bring COVID to their apartments. On the other hand, when the news broke out many people made available their unused homes for free “for the heroes”.

And so on. Everyone had to choose their path.

Please consider that even the “bad” things I’ve described were all legal, no matter how despicable they may seem. It was legal for the store owners to sell their masks at the price they wanted, it was legitimate for the teachers to ask to be provided the means to do their job by the employer, the fear of the doctors’ neighbors was understandable.

Still, I prefer to be around people who, when I’m in need, try to help. I prefer people who rather try to keep things going than put profits first. Most of all, I like to know which kind of people are around me in times of “peace” so that I know who will guard my back in times of “war”.

In these two years I’ve witnessed episodes of incredible courage and disgusting cowardice. I’ve been let down by people I thought that I could trust, and was pleasantly surprised by some that I had unfairly judged as worthless. Since then, I’ve reviewed each person I know regarding their attitude during the pandemic.

And you? Did you do it? If not, it’s imperative that you do it, ASAP.

For instance: how did your family, relatives, coworkers, neighbors, react to this sudden crisis?

Did they panic? I know of some that once faced with this danger they hadn’t expected, collapsed completely and took to the bottle.

Did they flee like the nurse? Or did they do their duty, or even more than what was their duty?

Did they keep (or find) the faith? Or did they lose it under the pressure?

Did they disappear? How many of the people you were close to before the pandemic, kept in touch with you during it, even just with a phone call? And how many reappeared only when it was over?

Did they took care of their family and/or work environment, or did they make a mess?

Did they bring a positive effect to your life in those times, or did they add only toxic vibes to it?

Mind you, I’m not saying that you should substitute yourself to God and judge your neighbor. We don’t know the actual problems (money, health, feelings…) everyone had to face in these last years. I’m just saying that you should review how everybody acted during the pandemic, because that will show you, crystal clear, which people you can reasonably count on in the next emergency, and which ones maybe are a question mark or worse.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by some people, like for instance a volunteer that before the pandemic was a womanizer, loved to drink and party, often missed shifts, seemed ‘vain’… but during the pandemic made a complete turnaround, he quit alcohol, made more shifts than everyone else and really did his job, even risking his life for people he didn’t know.

I’ve been let down by others that seemed to deeply care about me and my family, but during the first year never even sent a WhatsApp message to ask if me and my family were dead or alive, only responded if I wrote them.

Should I be in need, I know for instance that this volunteer will be there for me if I call him, cause that’s that kind of person that when someone is in need he helps. The other ones I thought were friends, otoh, I put them in the category “not sure if I can count on them” (let’s give them the benefit of doubt, maybe they had problems I’m not aware of). If they didn’t even check once if I was ok it means that if I need help likely they won’t come: they’ll put themselves first and probably will find an excuse.

Again: Which ones have learned their lesson and which ones have not? This pandemic should have been an eye-opener. Almost everyone was taken by surprise two years ago. One would expect that nobody wants to re-live that experience, right? Everybody should be a prepper, now. But is everyone? Or are they returning to their pre-pandemic routine, as if it was all a bad dream and once it’s over it’s like nothing happened at all?

Which people you know are trying to make sure that next time they’re prepared, which ones are asking you for advice? And which ones are trying to forget it all as fast as possible?

Stay close to the wise ones, who seem willing to improve, be wary of the silly ones who think that something like the last two years won’t ever happen again.

And since at the end of the year is always the moment to look back on what we did and to make new commitments: what about YOU, and your family?

Did you and family do the right things in the last two years?

How did you act under stress, how did you cope? Training for an event is useful, but it’s being “under fire” for real what shows if you were ready or not. Were you?

Were you an example of calm and focus, or did you take to the social networks spreading and absorbing panic? Were you a burden for your family or did you rise up to the moment, becoming a pillar, comforting others? Did you become a leader for inexperienced people, because of your preparedness? If you knew of others in need did you help, if that didn’t put your loved ones in danger? Or did you let others down?

Looking back, if you could re-live the last two years, are things you would do differently, and why?

I’m convinced that looking back everyone of us would change something in what we did or didn’t do.

These last two years have been tough. Maybe the next ones will be tougher.

Let’s make sure that this crisis has not been in vain and that we can learn from the mistakes we and the others around us have made, and from the good lessons that were there for us. God bless you, my fellow SurvivalBlog readers.