Editorial: The story of a community that got it done

If we listen to each other in our communities, if we tune out the blather coming out of the nation’s capital and if we do our best to support and look after each other, we might be able to ride out this COVID-19 monster and get to the other side. But when we get there, this will be a very different kind of place.

Just this week, in the reporting we’re doing our utmost to stay ahead of as the virus spreads, as positive test results increase and, sadly, the death toll rises, we were heartened to see people in our communities going out of their way to offer assistance.

They are doing this even though the best advice is to stay indoors, self-isolate and hunker down. It would be easy to pull up the drawbridge and say, “Don’t bother me.” But that’s not happening. Parents of young children have become schoolteachers — and are learning just how challenging and exhausting that job is. 

And therein lies the best of us. Call this chapter in our history “The North Fork: The Story of a Community That Got It Done.” Let future historians and writers note how we reacted when a crisis struck.

In Greenport, the family of former mayor David Kapell has organized a GoFundMe drive to raise money for Community Action Southold Town. CAST badly needs those funds because, in just the past few days, the number of people seeking food assistance has increased sharply. 

Others in Greenport are helping make sure all students in the school district have laptops or other devices so they can continue learning at the kitchen table now that schools are shuttered. Still others are making sure these families have reliable Wi-Fi access.

The Bread and More soup kitchen in Riverhead is providing takeout meals for those who need them. Restaurants in Mattituck and Greenport are doing the same. Volunteers in Riverhead, Mattituck, Southold and Greenport making sure students who received free or reduced-price meals at school are still being fed.

All this is being done against the backdrop of a rapidly escalating national health crisis, one that shows that we, as a country, are remarkably ill-equipped for such a massive public health event. Circumstances like these can bring out the best in a leader — Winston Churchill in 1940 or Franklin Roosevelt in December 1941 — or the worst. 

There are governors doing yeoman’s work to protect their citizens, tell us the truth and prepare for the surge of positive virus cases, such as Andrew Cuomo of New York, Phil Murphy of New Jersey and Larry Hogan of Maryland. At the national level, there is no better, more knowledgeable — and less political — figure than Dr. Anthony Fauci. We need his voice now more than ever. 

The most appalling news in recent days is that some members of Congress — who were briefed on the coming pandemic by the intelligence community and knew what was coming — cashed out their investment portfolios so as not to lose money when the market crashed. 

They didn’t tell the rest of us what was coming; some of them lied through their teeth to downplay it. Some of them mocked it, saying it was another effort to impeach the president. But they knew all along. Let the historians note that this is how they behaved in a national crisis.

The rest of us had no such insider knowledge to protect ourselves, or our savings. Anyone in the private sector who engaged in this kind of insider trading would, if caught, be tried, convicted and sent to the Big House to make license plates.

These grifters who call themselves “public servants” are a disgrace. They failed in their most basic responsibility: to protect their fellow Americans. 

The rest of us will look after each other. And we won’t forget.