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Beach Pace: 'I cannot recall a more unifying event in my life that hit such a wide swath of people.'

PMG FILE PHOTO - Beach PaceI have been volunteering at the Hillsboro Stadium vaccination site. I was assigned to checking people in as they drive up in their cars. The mix of emotions was funny and, in the aggregate, uplifting and inspiring.

People were bringing their parents; some brought their pets. Some people were excited, some were nervous, quiet and sullen and others were in the mindset of "let's do this!" My favorite were the jokesters who, as they pulled up to me, "placed an order" for a cheeseburger and fries. Some brought us coffee or candy to say thanks.

Then, there were the dogs. Some were cute, some were leery of me, some were super-excited to be there with their tails wildly wagging. Each brought joy or calm to their slightly nervous owners.

The cars ranged from beat-up trucks to BMWs. Parents, kids, aunts, uncles, grandparents and neighbors (who couldn't drive themselves or who were afraid to go alone). Medical transports and in one case, an ambulance. The person was too frail to be transported any other way.

It was a cross-section of our community, all there to do their part to be safe and make others safe.

I cannot recall a more unifying event in my life that hit such a wide swath of people. I've been in full soccer stadiums in England, I've stood with strangers in the path of the last eclipse but this…

This is something else.

This doesn't just bring together sports fans or celestial enthusiasts. What brought them there varied. Fear, respect for others, grandparents who desperately want to hug their grandkids again, newly minted first responders getting ready for duty.

But mostly, hope. Hope that if we each do this, we can be "normal" again.

As things were wrapping up and I was assigned closer to the actual vaccination tent, I was watching the medical staff. They were moving in and out between cars, talking, laughing, answering the questions of those to be vaccinated. The sun had dropped, and the wind was pressing at my back. My hood was up and my scarf was tight around my neck as I stood with my traffic baton at the ready to direct exiting cars into the waiting area. I watched nurses and doctors giving shots with frozen hands and applying band aids afterwards with such care as though the newly vaccinated were 5 years old. And they were doing this over and over and over and over again. All the while smiling.

Each car that drove into the waiting area was one step closer. One step closer to social freedom for all of us. One step closer to fully opening schools, businesses and restaurants. Full concert halls and sports stadiums and packed family reunions with long hugs. Person-to-person connection is making a comeback.

The team vaccinated 1,600 people that day. And this same thing is happening all over the country every day.

What happens here impacts you and what happens where you live impacts me and, again, I can think of no bigger or stronger unifying event where each and every person could do their part. Nothing else has ever torn us apart and then brought us together quite like this. It is all truly remarkable.

Beach Pace is a Hillsboro city councilor and U.S. Army veteran.


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