By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily
Face it, we are living in unusual times. Probably the craziest times of our lives.
The COVID-19 coronavirus has turned our personal lives, our towns, our state, our country, and our world upside down.
Folks that we all took for granted just three weeks ago are now recognized as heroes. I am talking about grocery store workers, janitors, truck drivers, local food delivery servicers, utility workers, and many, many others.
Notice that I did not mention doctors, nurses, EMTs, hospital workers, and other medical personnel. Obviously, they are already high up on that pedestal. We love and appreciate these folks for literally doing death-defying work. Hopefully for a generation, at least, we will recall their sacrifices and honor them. Forgive their school debts? Hell yes.
But in our daily hum-drum lives those other formerly almost invisible folks have moved into our range of focus. We appreciate what they are doing. We need to realize they may be risking their lives, too.
There is a deadly virus out there called CO for corona, VI for virus, and D for disease, which gives it the game COVID. The 19 is because of the year 2019, thus COVID-19.
In cities and towns across Wyoming, people turned out Friday night at 8:20 p.m., which on a 24-hour clock, is the time known as 2020. Folks gathered in central locations to cheer, honk their car horns, and flash their headlights in thanks to all the heroes on the front lines. This included all the folks mentioned earlier in this column.
In Lander and Riverton, folks did the same thing but also used that time to salute their high school senior classes of this unusual year 2020. These seniors will not be able to go to their proms, enjoy all those things you get to do in your last semester of school, and probably will not be able to attend their graduation ceremonies. These young people are our heroes, too. We are proud of them.
As a sidelight to all this, folks in Lander and Riverton decided to do a “Cruising Main” event where hundreds of cars and pickups drove back and forth on the main drag, much like they did back in their younger days.
I even heard a few complaints that the event was dominated by geezers, such as my wife Nancy and me plus our pals from the Fox News All Stars. Ha! It was fun and we would recommend it to other towns.
Dale and Jennifer Peterson of Lander do not look like heroes, but they really are. They set good examples of how to help people during good times. And in the crazy times, like right now during the age of COVID-19, they really shine.
Dale and Jen were stranded in Honduras at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. For 43 years, the Petersons have been taking care of members of the Miskito Tribe of indigenous peoples in the extreme rainforest of Honduras.
The Petersons were finally able to fly home last week. Dale is the dentist at the Life Resource Center in Lander. He started what they call Mission of Mercy over four decades ago.
They round up a dozen folks, usually dentists, doctors, nurses, and support people to go and treat these most needy people. Jen, who owned a restaurant for years, is the logistics magician. She rounds up $6,000 in medications, charters several airplanes, and packs and hauls 57 bags and crates of supplies for the medical expedition. They fly back into the wilderness as far as they can and then have to take canoes the rest of the way because there are no roads.
Some of the folks traveling with them included Doctors Phil Gilbertson and Hart Jacobsen of Lander; dentists Chris Peterson and Eric Sheridan of Lander; dentists Leif Polson and Will Robinson of Thermopolis; and nurses Donna and Racine Estep of Lander.
They do not fear the COVID-19 virus so much because of their personal experiences with hydroxychloroquine, a medicine used for malaria, which they take when they go to Honduras. They said they were staying on the island of Roatan, where thousands of people live. Nobody there has the virus, they said, because many people take hydroxychloroquine to combat malaria that is so prevalent.
During these trying times, Dale and Jen were happy to be back home. They should be, having saved lives and improved health for total strangers who live thousands of miles away. They are the modern definition of heroes in my mind.