Leilani Jordan knew that going to work could kill her.
But the 27-year-old Maryland woman with cerebral palsy put her own health and already compromised immune system aside because she felt she was needed more than ever at the grocery store where she worked.
Her mother said Jordan took a special interest in making sure the elderly people in her community — the ones most at risk of contracting the deadly COVID-19 — got the food they needed to survive.
But in the process of working long hours at the crowded grocery store, where many of her fellow workers were no longer showing up because of virus fears, Jordan got sick and a couple weeks later she died of coronavirus at Maryland’s Walter Reed Hospital, using her final moments to record a goodbye cellphone video message to her family.
Jordan’s bravery in the face of imminent danger epitomizes not only the word “hero” but, dare we say, the word “American” as this virus continues to kill.
The one thing COVID-19 can’t kill, however, is the Herculean resolve of the American people to help their fellow human beings weather this pestilent storm.
As the coronavirus’ death toll continues to skyrocket in our nation, there are countless examples of the Leilani Jordans among us proving that, when tested, the greatness of the American people shines like a blinding light, eliminating any doubt that we as Americans will prevail no matter what adversary we’re facing — even a deadly unseen pathogen.
East Idaho has no shortage of people who like Jordan who are rising to the occasion during these days filled with fear and in many places tragedy.
Take for example Portneuf Medical Center nurses Jill McQuary and Brittiney Curzon, who are both currently in virus-ravaged New Jersey trying to save people infected by the virus.
PMC’s parent company, Ardent Health Services, put out the call for PMC nurses willing to go to New Jersey to help that state survive the pandemic that’s killing hundreds of people there every day.
McQuary and Curzon immediately volunteered to clearly put themselves in harm’s way.
The national news is full of daily reports of doctors and nurses who’ve died after contracting COVID-19 while caring for virus patients. Even in Idaho, there are dozens of health care workers who’ve contracted the virus by simply showing up at work and caring for the sick.
McQuary and Curzon said part of the reason they volunteered to literally venture to the front lines of this pandemic is because they feel they might learn some things about the virus that will enable them to better treat infected individuals here in East Idaho.
We’re sure they will acquire some coronavirus-fighting wisdom in New Jersey, but they’re also putting themselves at incredible risk.
That brand of sheer courage is on display among all of our nation’s health care professionals regardless of whether they’re at a doctor’s office in Pocatello, a nursing home in Washington state or a hospital in New Jersey. They are putting their own well-being aside to in many cases give the last full measure of themselves to keep the infected alive.
Emergency personnel such as paramedics, firefighters and police are also responding to virus patients’ calls for help and many of them have contracted the sickness and died as well.
Such self-sacrifice is happening in every community in the United States and says volumes about who we are as Americans.
But it seems the most unsung of heroes amid this global public health crisis are the people like Jordan — the many American workers who are doing vital jobs to literally keep our society running.
Many of the clerks at grocery and retail stores across our nation have not even been provided with masks to protect them from COVID-19 as they wait on long lines of customers, many of whom are without a doubt among the infected.
One only has to walk through local stores to see that virus precautions like social distancing are impossible to achieve in crowded aisles and checkout lines.
These store clerks receive little pay to put themselves at such risks, but the vast majority are showing up at their jobs every day to keep their stores open and to keep the rest of us well-supplied with food and other necessities during this pandemic.
The bottom line is that anyone working a job that puts themselves in contact with the public is knowingly placing themselves in the deadly cross-hairs of the coronavirus.
Restaurant workers, cab drivers and countless other Americans are keeping our economy going and providing the rest of us with needed services while jeopardizing their own safety.
The long list of Americans who are exemplifying the best of humanity during this health care crisis should fill all of us with gratitude and pride.
From those who work in the emergency room at PMC to the grocery store clerks at Albertsons to the restaurateurs providing you with some takeout food for dinner, they’re all on the front lines of this war and doing so without hesitation.
We pray for God’s mercy and protection for all of them.