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The scariest day of 2020 for me was August 22. My wife and I were heading back to our then home in Louisiana after traveling to Maryland to visit our future residence a month before relocating. We got caught in a violent Virginia storm in the middle of the night.
As my wife was driving the rental car, my phone got an emergency alert that we were traveling through “life-threatening” weather conditions. My anxiety shot through the roof. The storm surge yielded no visibility except a few tiny specs of illumination from tail lights in front of us.
I softly played music from my wife’s favorite artist, Babyface, as a means to keep her calm while driving. I was quietly experiencing a panic attack but did not want to make mention of the weather alert while she was navigating through a torrential rainstorm.
The water along the interstate was rising. Lightning flashes were blinding. I honestly felt our story would end with us careening off a Virginia highway into a flooded abyss.
After roughly an hour and a half of driving through what felt like a monsoon, the rain began to slack. We stayed in a cheap motel in Tennessee to break up the 17-hour middle of the night drive back to Baton Rouge. The accommodations were maybe a two-star rating at best, but we needed a few hours of rest more than we needed luxury.
We got up the next day on the other side of what could have been a fatal storm and drove home.
I cannot find a better metaphor for the entirety of 2020 than that perilous August trip. The majority of the year has felt like an inescapable and violent storm, unrelenting in its efforts to drown us all and showing no signs of breaking.
The whole world has been under the dark overcast of the coronavirus pandemic. In the U.S., hundreds of thousands of people have succumbed to complications from the virus. The quarterly waves of spikes in infection rates have been described as surges and the prospect of brighter days have often felt met with little to no visibility.
We have also been witness to a continuous surge in state-sanctioned violence against Black and Brown people amid a year of non-stop deluge. American streets have been wet with the blood of marginalized citizens at the behest of law enforcement, for the crime of existing as anything other than white and worthy of due process.
At the midway mark of a pandemic year, Americans of all backgrounds flooded city streets in protest of police violence. The hope was that their voices would roar loud enough to temper the surge of bullets and chokeholds that were washing our loved ones away.
The violence raged on through the fall and into the beginning of winter. Our voices, unable to change the weather patterns, did not grow silent but often had to redirect efforts of storm chasing against injustice to retreat for shelter.
Some years dole out an exorbitant amount of pain and suffering. 2020 has been one of those years.
But while scrolling through my memories on the social media app, Timehop, I am reminded that there are moments in history when it seems like the rain will never cease until it does. At the end of 2016, I found myself reeling from a catastrophic year that encompassed a great deal of communal loss and cultural tragedies. The general consensus by most was that 2016 was a shitty year for a myriad of reasons.
Then it ended. And though things did not become perfect the following year, what felt like the eye of the storm moved on.
I am not going into 2021 with blind optimism. I know that we are still in a fierce battle with the novel coronavirus. I know that a new presidential administration does not automatically signal equality for marginalized Americans. I know that so much has been left in ruins this year that a flip of the calendar cannot undo all of the damage.
But I also know that storm clouds vanish. Surges dissipate. Sunlight eventually breaks through.
Once upon a time, I survived a hellacious storm amid a stormy year. I know that clear skies are always on the horizon.
About the Author
Donney Rose is a poet, essayist, Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow, advocate, and Chief Content Editor at The North Star. He believes in telling how it is and how it should be