2020 was definitely not an easy year. The beginning of the year was marked by the dreadful Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 crash. This occurred in the middle of the escalating tension between the US and Iran and 176 passengers died. I lost a lab colleague, Dr. Samira Bashiri, in this horrible crash. I spent most of this year frequently thinking of Samira and sometimes messaging her on What’s App knowing that she wouldn’t respond. Samira wasn’t the only Canadian who died on that flight and countless other talented physicians, scientists, and students returning home to Canada to begin the winter semester lost their lives.
With this horrible and traumatic incidence, came the COVID-19 pandemic. For many of us, we spent these months at home, wearing masks in public, and not socializing due to the safety restrictions. This pandemic impacted our mental health, resulting in fear and anxiety, and increased feelings of isolation. This was not an easy time for many of us and crisis text lines were very busy with the overwhelming number of people needing ways to alleviate their loneliness.
Then came the brutal murder of George Floyd. Floyd’s murder exposed many to police brutality and systemic racism. This caused many to speak out, protest, and advocate for BLM; however, there was also a spike in performative activism – many individuals only posted stories to avoid getting backlash for staying “silent.” Months and months later, many haven’t amplified Black voices or used their platform. Floyd’s murder was also another traumatic incident to add to the list of traumatic incidents that minorities and POCs had to deal with during the pandemic. This, coupled with loneliness, further added to all our stress.
Next, came the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) and the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the supreme court. This move was a step backwards for women and their rights. This was also stressful and very upsetting for women everywhere – American or non-American. This appointment and the 2020 presidential election (which ended up lasting days!) further added to the stress and mess that was 2020. Many of us thought about our rights (even as Canadians) and re-electing a President whose policies and viewpoints were directly clashing with the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, women, BIPOC, and immigrants. It was another nerve-wracking experience.
While this year has caused many of us to hold our breaths, due to bad news after bad news, it is important to put this horrible year behind us. This year brought us so much pain and grief; however, it also broadened our awareness for areas that we need to improve on and populations that deserve rights. There will be light at the end of this tunnel and things will improve in 2021; however, we must continue to work hard to implement the lessons we’ve learned and support one another.