By VERNON ROBISON
This is the seventeenth time in a row that I have spent the last week of a calendar year preparing a “News in Review” edition of The Progress. And by far, this year’s experience has been the most sombre and wistful.
As the year has drawn to a close, it has become cliche for the media to talk about what a perfect storm of difficulty and loss 2020 has been. We all joke about it. But nothing really brings home the full scope of all that has been lost like actually looking back at the week-to-week development of the pandemic and noting its cumulative effects in our small communities.
Perhaps most heartbreaking to me was perusing the pages of Progress editions from January, February and early March. It seems so far away! All was well with the world back then. Our youth were dancing together at New Year’s parties. Students were playing sports and participating in other competitive events at school. Big community events like Mesquite Motor Mania and the Mesquite Balloon Festival drew huge crowds from all over the region. There were caucuses, live theatre productions, ribbon-cuttings and a host of other completely normal activities, held entirely without fear or restriction.
It was harrowing to look at all of the photos of community members back then; busy going about their lives, making plans, engaging in activities that nowadays are no longer possible. It was almost painful to see those familiar faces smiling back at me through the photos on the printed page without a care in the world. None of us realized what was about to hit us in just a few short weeks.
Then, suddenly, everything changed. In the last weeks of March, and through April, all the plans that we thought were so firmly in place came tumbling down around us. And the heartbreaking impacts came, one added to another, week after week: school trips cancelled, sports seasons called off, schools closed, store shelves eerily barren, the Clark County Fair suddenly cancelled along with its Junior Livestock Show, casinos, bars and golf courses shuttered, restaurant dining rooms empty and on and on and on. Thumbing through the pages of a year’s-worth of newspapers was, in some ways, like experiencing it all again.
But there has, all along, been light shining in the darkness; even in the dismal year of 2020. And this bright spots were also chronicled, again and again, in our pages – often right alongside the heartbreaking losses. These shining lights shone in the way that local people rose above fear and uncertainty, left their places of dismal solitude, and came together to help their neighbors in need. There were helpers everywhere and the pages of The Progress have been full of them in 2020!
When it was finally decided that folks needed to be wearing masks, an army of volunteers went to work making them. Then drive-thru distribution events were organized in various public places to get these hand-made masks out to anyone wanting one.
To combat isolation and loneliness, neighbors checked on one another regularly. They encouraged each other. Music could be heard in many neighborhoods as whole streets of residents emerged into their front yards and joined together in singing patriotic songs, hymns and other favorite tunes to lift their spirits.
All kinds of free food distribution took place, to help those most in need. There were mobile food banks, run by volunteers. And though the dining rooms were closed, Senior Center lunches in both valleys continued; served through car windows at curbside by smiling local helpers.
Many activities were planned on the fly, just to prop up struggling local businesses. These included ‘Take Out Tuesdays’ to help local restaurants; a Christmas in July event to aid area retailers, outdoor street fairs to help home-business vendors, and much more.
Perhaps the brightest shining light of the year is when folks banded together in both valleys to celebrate their young people: the graduating class of 2020. When the high-level CCSD bureaucracy in Las Vegas got wrapped around its own axle and couldn’t give its blessing to a graduation ceremony in either valley, community members took the wheel and made it happen. What resulted was a graduation celebration in both valleys, the likes of which have never been seen before.
Yes, this year of the COVID has been dark and dismal. But it has also had its light and hope. It has been a year of deep loss and solitude, but also a year of great blessing and camaraderie. Though there have been times in 2020 when our communities, and their institutions, have had to bend to the breaking point, we have also been forced to band together, adapt, keep things together, and grow stronger.
I certainly can’t say I am grateful for the pandemic experience of 2020. But I can say that, every day of it, I have thanked my lucky stars that I live in a neighborly small town, where people don’t wait for some government authority to come solve their problems. Instead, the folks in small town America get out, roll up their sleeves, pool their resources and go to work to help one another. That has been on full display in our 2020 coverage of both the Moapa and Virgin Valleys.
So while it has admittedly been a tough year, I thank my neighbors and friends in both valleys for showing that such a thing is still possible, even in the crazy world of the COVID.
And now, as is our end-of-year tradition, I would also like to express appreciation for those bold readers who have contributed to The Progress Opinion Page over the past year. Heaven knows, there have been ample issues out there on which to comment and offer opinion this year.
This page has always been set aside for our readers to reflect their own views on the community issues of the day. And regardless of what they may think about the ideas expressed here, if this page has caused folks to think, and maybe even discuss, then I believe it has served its noble purpose.
The Progress has published more than 50 letters to the editor in 2020. In our social media-driven world of rapid-fire venom-spewing, we believe there is still a need for the old fashioned ‘in-print’ letter to the editor. It offers readers a chance to take some time, consider a position, and write some well thought-out ideas that will ultimately stand on the record for much longer than the 2-minute lifespan of the average web post. That is healthy public discourse and we are glad that there are still readers out there that engage in this time-honored practice.
The letter-writers appearing in print on this page during 2020 included: Esther Ramos, Wes Fisher, William Bush, David A. Cook, Ann Bley, Myrna Foster, Keith J. Telshaw, Bret Staley, Linda Wilson, Steven Ginther, Diane Dioguardi, Moe Horne, Karen Fielding, Hal Mortensen, David Ballweg, Sandy Raia, Brian Burris, Peter Vander Meide, Andrea Meckley, Trinity F. Tanner, David Pellegrino, Jeanne Crayton, Scott Sangberg, Clifford Peterson, Jack Johnson, Oscar Henderson, Melanie and Tracy Jones, Judy Metz, Sheldon Worley, Abigail Brill, Pam Proctor, Al Litman, Sean McMurray, Val Sharp, Don Akins, Bob St. Louis, Vicky De Leo, Claire Cox, Yoli Bell, John Rosen and Ben Muhlstein.
Letters to the editor are always welcome. They may be sent via email to [email protected] or, if necessary, the old fashioned way to the Progress, PO BOX 430, Overton, NV 89040.
Moreover, in this internet-driven world, many people prefer the ability to instantly post comments to the stories and opinions we publish. That option is certainly available on our website at www.mvprogress.com.
Unfortunately, this year we have reached the point where the list of online commenters is far too long to publish every name. The list includes more than 400 different commenters, many of whom posted comments multiple times throughout the year.
Finally, I would just voice my personal appreciation for the mammoth work of Dr. Larry Moses in his weekly column No One Asked Me But…! This column is now in its 14th year of running every week in this newspaper.
Doc Moses has done a great service to our communities through his thoughtful, respectful, and humor-infused approach to tackling tough issues. His column sets a high standard for public discourse in the community. So, as I repeat every year – and it is true every time – The Progress just wouldn’t be the same with Doc Moses!
Finally, as The Progress continues its mission of covering the Moapa and Virgin Valley communities like no one else, we look forward each week to hearing from our readers. We hope to hear your unique and valued perspectives on the news of the day. And we even hope, when needed, to hear your criticisms and complaints of how we cover them.
Please don’t keep your opinions to yourselves! They are always welcome right here in your hometown newspaper.