Homebound on a global scale

PHOTO: Christopher Michel, Flickr CC
Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

Who buys soup at Target? Apparently everyone, because the soup is gone. But we can get soap. So let’s get soap.

Walking the aisles of the store last weekend my phone rang. It was my sister Alyssa in Italy. She’ve been living there almost two years now but was hoping to come home for a stretch this summer. Outbreak of the COVID-19 virus prompted her to try an earlier departure. Now all the flights out of the country were canceled. She hoped to catch a train into Germany. But that plan also fell to the realities of travel restrictions. She’s safely quarantined with her boyfriend in Florence. She’ll remain in Italy until this is over.

When will it be over?

I teach communication. On Monday we met at work to plan remote delivery of college classes. We know how. Hibbing Community College has offered online courses for about 20 years. But we’ve never taught diesel mechanics, electricians or emergency room nurses how to practice their trade entirely through the internet. How can you? Not everyone has a Cummins diesel up on a lift at home.

My dad poked at a diesel engine or two when we were growing up. But that was a long time ago when my sisters and I were all together.

We’re figuring it out. The plan at the college is to make sure everyone can finish their spring semester classes through online delivery, video conferencing and correspondence. We’re committed. We’ll forge ahead until this crisis is over.

When will it be over?

On Tuesday, I texted my research partner to plan our weekly call. He’s self-quarantined with COVID-19 symptoms in New York. He can’t get tested. We didn’t bring my son in the other day when he had a fever. Probably nothing. No tests anyway. Stay away from grandma and grandpa. They’re vulnerable. We’ll have to wait until it’s over.

When will it be over?

Wednesday, the New York Times reported that the outbreak response might last 18 months according to an internal memo from the Department of Homeland Security. We had to cancel the HCC commencement ceremony and all the spring sports.

The kids are home now. They read and do assignments on their iPads. My son Doug practices his baseball swing in the driveway. The snow is finally melting, releasing all the balls he lost over the winter from the garage roof. He won’t get to play with other kids until this is over.

When will it be over?

My sister and I have always been different but close. She’s the free spirit. Goes where the wind takes her, even to Italy with no money. Me, I planned and planned and stayed in one place.

More than 2,500 people died in Italy just this month. Not in her city. Or here. Not yet.

But as different as our paths have been, as far apart as we are now, we remain equally trapped. We are all trapped.

When will this be over?

Maybe it won’t. COVID-19 doesn’t just threaten our physical health; it exposes our economic, political and social follies. Trillions of dollars of wealth evaporated this week: because of the virus, because of the response, but mostly because that so called “wealth” was never real to begin with.

This isn’t over. We have so much work to do. All we have is each other.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and is the creator of the Great Northern Radio Show which aired for eight years on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, March 22, 2020 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.




  1. Joe musich says

    Yep…thanks. You too.

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