We write today to respond to the editorial “The Summer We Wanted” from our friends and journalistic colleagues at The East Hampton Star. This is an extraordinarily challenging time for local news and we do not take to criticizing our peers lightly. But their claim that this is the summer that anyone would have wanted is preposterous and offensive to all of those who have suffered during this terrible pandemic.
The Independent celebrates Everything East End and stands for independent and thoughtful journalism. We understand the issues facing our community that The Star is trying to address. They merit thoughtful public debate and responsible action by our community and its leaders. However, to suggest that the death and destruction caused by COVID-19 has been helpful because it advances a political agenda or some nostalgic view of what one group of people thinks our community should look like ignores the disastrous impacts this pandemic has had on our families, our neighbors, our frontline workers, and our economy.
Nearly 40,000 people in Suffolk County have been infected and close to 2000 people have died.
This is not the summer the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends, and colleagues of those 2000 souls would have wanted.
We do not think our frontline heroes – doctors, nurses, EMTs, firefighters, police officers, and cleaning professionals – who worked endless days and nights away from their own families caring for the 40,000 people who got sick would say “Why can’t we have more like this?”
Thousands of people on the East End have lost their jobs and so many of our local small businesses have had to close or be put on pause. The Suffolk County unemployment rate is a staggering 16.4 percent and the demand at our local food pantries has increased exponentially.
Those friends and neighbors who are spending every waking day and sleepless night worried about how they are going to feed their family because they lost their job or had to close their business probably do not take much comfort in the air being “mellower.”
The high school and college seniors robbed of their graduation do not think a “sweetly dull” virtual ceremony is much of a substitute.
This is not to mention the countless young people who have been separated from their friends and deprived of the joy and camaraderie of their sports teams and social activities. They will also likely go months without seeing grandparents or other vulnerable family members. As parents, we can tell you they do not enjoy being this “sedate.”
This summer will certainly not be “a rare treat to savor” for the East End’s great cultural institutions, forced to shutter their doors, blocking the world from enjoying their wonderful art and performances that are the lifeblood of this community. The North and South Fork restaurants, bars, wineries, and breweries we think would disagree with the assertion that they like being “busy, but not too much,” facing a summer of turned up tables and takeout. We doubt our iconic hotels and inns are thankful to be “partially full.” And it is every single person who lives, works, and visits the East End, not just “tourists,” who will continue to be frightened to leave the house without a face mask this summer.
Our community – like so many others – has endured a devastating blow and we are all in mourning for the loss. What will get us through this difficult time and help us build back better than before is a sense of unity and common purpose. We all need to come together to support the grieving, celebrate the frontline and essential workers who cared for and saved us, and work together to restart our economy so people can go back to work.
We are disappointed that The Star – or anyone else – would seek to take advantage of this terrible moment in our history. This is not a time for pettiness or partisanship, ideology or score settling. The divisions in our community can, at times, be raw but now we need to put them aside.
East Hampton was never Mayberry (despite what some may think or want) and we like to listen to “a sweet birdsong” as much as anyone.
The “rest of us” would gladly wait in a little traffic if it meant we could have those 2000 lives back.