Commentary: COVID-19 and the Rise of a New Class of Superheroes


It’s not unusual for me to hear my son playing in his room as I walk by. 

It is, however, odd to hear the narration of his own personal playtime reflecting scary realities beyond the walls of our home. 

“Hurry, hurry, we have to save them from the sickness!” he shouted. 

I opened the door just enough to see what was happening without disturbing him. With a toy ambulance clinched in each fist, he was carrying out an urgent rescue operation.

In this particular scenario, the paramedics were coming to the aid of his Batman, Black Panther and Thor action figures.

“Get them to the doctor!” he yelled.

At just 5 years old, my son has arrived at the correct conclusion that medical professionals are the true heroes these days. 

Of course, this pandemic has also thrust other professions into heroic roles. 

I’m thinking of the grocery store workers who face the most exposure day in and day out, the truckers who drive into the night to make sure products arrive on the shelves and the janitors and custodians across the land who work tirelessly — and thanklessly — to stamp out any potential remnant of this novel coronavirus wherever they go. 

Folks who just months ago were seen by many as filling unremarkable roles in our economy are now the only columns holding it up. 

Other standard bearers of the hero mantle are still dutifully in place, the law enforcement officers patrolling the streets and the firefighters who remain ready to swiftly respond to any scene at any time. 

Our appreciation of their work is as important today as it was before this crisis emerged.

But others are rising to the occasion as well. 

I’m talking about distilleries that upended their entire operations in order to produce hand sanitizer in bulk. I’m thinking of those who have gathered together on social media en masse to organize and create thousands of masks for both emergency responders and the general public, or the nonprofit organizations that were already stretched for resources but have now found another gear in order to serve more members of the public with food, clothing and financial assistance. 

Then there are the employers breaking their backs to provide as much work for their employees as possible, knowing how important a paycheck — of any size — is in these times. 

Even landlords, sometimes portrayed as cold and calculated, are in many cases stepping up for the occasion, providing relief and understanding for tenants who have simply lost their ability to earn money. 

All of these examples share a common theme — sacrifice, the act of giving up some level of comfort and safety for the good of others. 

To one extent or another, all of us have been asked to sacrifice aspects of our lives in order to halt this virus in its tracks and eventually restore some sense of normalcy. 

But for the majority of us, the most heroic thing we can do is stay at home and avoid potentially passing or contracting the virus. 

Compared to the contributions of others, it’s not a lot to ask. 

When we win the day — and we will — there will be time to take stock of these wild and uncertain times and remember everyone who made sacrifices on the front lines and beyond. 

For now, I’ll simply raise a glass from afar to those who have risen to an unprecedented occasion to serve, heal, feed, protect and support those who have simply been asked to avoid others as an unseen foe courses through the human population. 

It’s the dawn of a new class of superheroes. 

Even a child can see that.


Eric Schwartz is regional executive editor for Lafromboise Communications. He can be reached at


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