Witnessing a Miracle

May 24, 2021 9:36 am

Witnessing a Miracle

By Sarah Parmelee, DOF Forestland Conservation Coordinator

This spring I didn’t go to many tree plantings, but I was able to take part in something very important, and in a way, miraculous.

I am a country mouse if ever there was one, and even though Washington D.C. is just a an hour away, it feels like traveling to another country to leave the hills of Warrenton and make the trek into the sprawling expanse of NOVA. The vaccination center where I was assigned was operating out of an empty office building, acres of parking lot flanking it on either side. Behind the building, a row of trees screened a freight yard from view. In front of us, the metro ran back and forth all day. At 7:30 a.m. it was quiet and peaceful – a few cars driving by on their way to work, the odd jogger or dog walker – but that would change once the vaccination site opened.

The site where I worked vaccinated an average of 4,000 people every day I was there, and our highest day was 4,800. After a year in relative isolation, it was simply amazing to see so many people. Every day we filled the clinic, and every morning there were people lining up, sometimes before the staff arrived, waiting in the early morning light to get their COVID vaccine.

The variety of people who walked through our doors was amazing to me. Buddhist monks, priests, ladies in beautiful saris, teenagers with green hair, office workers, postal workers, government workers with flags pinned to their lapels – all came. People came individually or with their spouse. Grown children brought their elderly parents, parents brought their teenagers, and sometimes entire, multi-generational families would come together. We had walkers, we had strollers, we had crutches, we had babies, we had toddlers, we had service dogs, we had people in full-face gas masks, WE HAD IT ALL.

Coming to check-in, people were nervous; they didn’t know what to expect, they didn’t know what the rules were, they also had not seen this many people in a long time, and they were understandably anxious. By the end of my two weeks, we were getting more and more people for their second shot appointment and the feeling had noticeably changed.

On my next to last day, I was chatting with the woman at the front of the check-in line during a pause in the chaos. She wasn’t scared or intimidated by the process or the people; she was bouncing up and down, because in two weeks, she was going to get to see her grandkids for the first time in a year with no masks. Her joy was overwhelming.

Aside from a handful of state employees like myself, most of the non-medical staff at the clinic were volunteers. They were from all walks of life, many retired, some unemployed, others taking a few hours off their regular job to help with the effort. They worked long hours in the cold, the rain, and the heat, because their city needed to be vaccinated. They were so joyful every morning when we rallied for our daily briefing, happy to be doing their part to end the pandemic.

One day I worked inside with a woman who had recently retired from the FDA. She handed out “I’ve been vaccinated” stickers as people left our area.

“Congratulations,” she told them. “Congratulations.”

On my last day, I was able to get my second shot and am now fully vaccinated. I did it for my health. For the health of my husband. For my sister who is an EMT. For my parents who want to travel more. For my fellow DOF folks who hate virtual meetings.

I did it because it was the right thing to do, and I am proud to have done my part to end the hold that this disease has had over all of us.

Congratulations to everyone who is fully vaccinated. Now, let’s plant some trees.