In all the most important ways, Memorial Day on Vashon this year was everything it was supposed to be — a remembrance of the ultimate sacrifice of lives lost on the faraway battlefields, but also, of the daily sacrifices and acts of courage we now see all around us.
On Monday morning, veterans unfurled Old Glory up and down Vashon Highway, and earlier in the weekend, they also worked quietly at Vashon Cemetery to place more than 600 flags on the graves of veterans.
Another eye-catching act marked the holiday, reminding us of the island’s creative community. A solo theater artist, Mik Kuhlman, appeared on our roads, masked and standing still in a massive red coat — her way of welcoming day-trippers while also reminding them of our island’s isolation and fragility.
Throughout the weekend, our essential workers and first responders continued to show up to work, as they have throughout this ordeal, ready to serve us in circumstances none of them could have ever imagined when they signed up for their jobs.
Lisa Cyra, the food service director of the Vashon School District, organized a giant extra effort for more than 400 youth on Vashon to receive free, nutritious extra meals over the holiday weekend, delivered by school bus all over Vashon.
And many, many more islanders performed the simple but intensely patriotic task of staying home yet another day, yet another weekend, adhering to the strict public health protocols that have so far, at least, protected the entire community.
Vashon Islanders, you are remarkable.
As this era has stretched on, you’ve kept the spirit of our community alive and our relatively good health intact, with only four reported cases of COVID-19 on the island and no deaths.
You have volunteered, sewn and distributed masks, assisted in the vital efforts of Vashon BePrepared and the Emergency Operations Center, and performed countless other tasks in the service of others.
Last week, the national media discovered our Medical Reserve Testing Corps and covered its testing site operation. Articles in The Seattle Times, The New York Times and an interview on MSNBC all drew attention to the innovative program, now being exported to other rural and tribal communities.
National press has always been a bit of a mixed bag for us. We islanders like to stay off the radar, and worry that if people find out about Vashon, they’ll visit us too often. More than ever, that’s not something we want right now.
But now, we should keep in mind this kind of coverage might inspire efforts to make other places as safe and as relatively healthy as we remain here. And that’s a beautiful thing.
We’re not out of the woods yet. We need to remain resolved, compassionate and mindful of each other as we slowly pass through the gates of re-opening set by our state and local officials.
We need to follow the rules, something that comes hard to some on an iconoclastic island. But now is not the time to be a rebel. We need to remember, like our brave veterans, that there are causes bigger than each of our own individual lives. If ever there was a time to fall into line, it is now.
The battle against the coronavirus has been unspeakably cruel, with our national death toll now nearing 100,000 souls since the beginning of March.
The economic devastation left in the virus’ wake has been grievous throughout the country and in our own community.
But we are Vashon Strong. This past Memorial Day, and all the weeks leading up to it, showed why we must continue to work together to achieve the greater good.