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Ebola Reminds Shaker That We Can Be The Story, Too

Humor gave way to uneasiness when virus was connected to Cleveland, then to us

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When people turn on the news at night, they automatically expect the worst. News outlets tend to focus on the negative: school shootings, serial killers, political corruption, natural disasters, and recently, the Ebola outbreak. With dire circumstances becoming the new norm, people tend to discuss these events as if they’ve happened in another world. That is, until it happens to them.

Up until last Wednesday, these devastations rarely, if ever, hit close to home. They were topics discussed in small talk at the dinner table, in what could be considered third person. The idea of these issues in Cleveland, let alone Shaker, never seemed plausible. However, on Oct.15, we were all rudely awakened to the fact that our city was now in the eyes of not only our country, but the world.

It was discovered that Amber Vinson, a nurse who treated Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas, traveled on the commercial Frontier Airlines to Cleveland on Oct. 8 to plan her wedding with her family. Vinson was diagnosed with Ebola by Texas Presbyterian Hospital Oct. 14, the day after she returned from her trip.

Growing up in a world where devastations are common, we were always taught how to sympathize with the affected population, but never how to be it.”

The moment this news hit Shaker Heights High School at the end of fifth period, a chorus of “Ebola” comments resonated throughout the halls for the rest of the day. Students began to speculate about the disease, making ridiculous claims that only stoked social media fires. Within minutes, the hashtag “#CLEbola” was trending on Twitter. The initial reaction to the threat was fear masked by humor (“Kim Kardashian has been married more times than the amount of people in this country who have died of Ebola”). However, this did not last for long.

The next day we were shocked with even scarier news: Ebola had not only passed through Cleveland, but a Shaker parent was on the same flight that brought the second Dallas nurse diagnosed with the disease to the region. In a letter to the community posted at shaker.org Oct. 16, Superintendent Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr. stated that the parent and family were commencing a voluntary self-quarantine.

This time, the threat of Ebola really struck the community. Students’ jokes on the matter were no longer appearing in bulk on social media. We all began to walk on eggshells with our speculations. Now that Ebola had come to Shaker — no matter how obscurely — no one was quite sure how to cope. Growing up in a world where devastations are common, we were always taught how to sympathize with the affected population, but never how to be it.

Speculation duplicated as rumors went awry. From how the disease spreads to how serious the Shaker residents’ risks of exposure really are, people were unable to tell right from wrong. We are here to set the record straight.

When Vinson travelled to Ohio, she was not showing symptoms of Ebola, which meant she was not yet contagious. Even so, the Shaker resident on board the flight “was not in the immediate contact zone with the Dallas patient, and thus is not considered at high risk for contracting the disease,” according to Hutchings. Lastly, Vinson tested negative for Ebola on Oct. 22, and her colleague, Nina Pham, who was also infected with the disease, is said to be in good condition.

Based on these facts, there is no reason for any more speculation among students and other community members. And although it’s important to be mindful of our health, it’s also important to remember that we are only human. Ebola is not the first frightening fact to visit Shaker, and most certainly won’t be the last. All we can do as human beings is learn how to cope when that fear reaches our door.

This editorial appears in Volume 85, Issue 2 of the Shakerite (November 2014) on page 9.

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The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization
Ebola Reminds Shaker That We Can Be The Story, Too