- - Thursday, March 19, 2020

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, both of my sons were eating breakfast before heading to their elementary school when my wife called from work. She told me to go to the living room and turn on the television. To my disbelief, I watched images of another plane crashing into the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

Later, as our carpool headed to work, we listened in disbelief as they reported that the twin towers were falling to the ground. At first, we thought it was a mistake. It hardly seemed possible to imagine two buildings so large crumbling to the ground.

Once together with our family, we explained what took place that morning. All I could think about in the days that followed were the images of the towers falling haunting my sons’ childhood.

Then something amazing happened. President George W. Bush called for everyone to light a candle that Friday night. We decided to do it in our front yard and invited our parents. Tonette told a few of her friends when she dropped off the kids at school that morning. We opened our door and found the entire front yard full of family, friends and neighbors.

Thankfully, we had a box of old candles. We cut them into pieces so everyone could have their own light. Then, we sang patriotic songs. Finally, my father (a retired minister) led us in a prayer. “United We Stand” was more than a slogan that night, it was real.

Looking back, I am so grateful that Matt and Alex’s memories of that week focus more on the faces illuminated by candlelight and not on the world darkened by terrorists. On that day, love triumphed over hate.

Today, we face a new threat in America. Unlike the aftermath of 9/11, there is not a known enemy. We do, however, have the same fear and anxiety that we had during the initial days after the terrorist attacks.

Now, more than ever, we need to return to that sense of United We Stand. Republicans are not going to defeat this attack. Democrats are not going to defeat this attack. Only God can deliver us from this evil, and I believe that God is calling us to work together.

It is understandable that some may be skeptical of this threat because of the hype and hysteria that we often hear, see and read from many in the media. The facts, however, show a real crisis emerging during the next few weeks. Scenes in Italy are a deadly reminder of what may happen if we do not take the coronavirus seriously.

We are blessed to live in America, where we have exceptional health care. The very real concern, however, is that we are headed toward such a dramatic increase in people being infected with coronavirus that we will not have enough hospital rooms for all of the patients. That is particularly important for the more serious respiratory cases that require treatment in an intensive care unit (ICU).

This is why it is so important to suspend mass gatherings like athletic events, concerts, colleges, schools and even religious services. The more people who are exposed to others with the virus, the faster the increase in the number of people with positive tests. We need to slow the curve so we can handle care for those who have the coronavirus.

Everyone is vulnerable to the virus. Yes, older adults and people with compromised immune systems might have higher risks, but everyone — including healthy young people — can test positive. And young people can pass the coronavirus onto others.

Everyone needs to stay home and away from other people. If you do need to go out, it should be in groups of less than 10 people and only for things like groceries, medicine and other essentials. Put distance between yourself and other people. Stay at home if you are sick. If you believe that you have symptoms of coronavirus, call your health care professional before going to a hospital, clinic or office.

We need to clean our hands frequently. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces several times a day.

There are some who think they are immune to the virus. There are others who object to the government telling them what to do. Think about this: If troopers were blocking traffic because of an avalanche, would people ignore them and go around the barricades? No. That would risk the safety of themselves and the others in their vehicles. They would expect experts — be they in the government or not — to warn them of the imminent danger.

We have been forewarned by experts. We can stop the avalanche. But we must each do our part. United We Stand.

• Scott Walker was the 45th governor of Wisconsin. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him @ScottWalker.

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