Giving thanks to the new American heroes
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The American public, myself included, has often taken for granted the basic liberties afforded in our daily lives. This includes the freedom to travel when and where we please, the ability to hug our loved ones, and the opportunity to go to work, among many others. Now and each day in the future that we enjoy such liberties, we are indebted to you, the new American heroes, standing tall in the wake of one of the greatest crises our nation has endured.

On the frontlines of this battle are different types of soldiers – doctors, nurses, first responders, and other medical professionals. As the first registered nurse elected to Congress, I am deeply aware of the sacrifices and expertise that you bring to your work, and I honor your selfless, dedicated service during this public health crisis. What our society is asking of you, your support staff, and your families is immense, and we must endeavor to provide absolutely every possible resource for you to do your work effectively. This means that the current nationwide struggles to acquire sufficient personal protective equipment and testing materials are unacceptable, and I am committed to continue pushing for federal leadership to ensure that you are equipped to provide the care our communities need and depend on at this time. We need to make your jobs a little easier by listening to the science-based advice of our medical professionals, such as those at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rather than to the soothing—but dangerously uninformed—rhetoric of some of our political leaders. And we need to provide more resources for our research enterprise to find solutions for the life or death issues you and your patients face every day.

We also must recognize the immeasurable contributions of all non-medical essential workers to the COVID-19 response and adaption efforts. Among those include grocery and convenience store clerks, mass transit and delivery drivers, education personnel, and trash collectors – most of whom are working extended hours despite often earning only a minimum wage. The value of your work is now more apparent than ever before. Your unwavering commitment to ensure that resources remain accessible, our shelves stocked, our transportation functional, and our children engaged are equally as important as medical support and will not soon be forgotten.

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In trying times like these, Americans, by nature, turn to political leaders for words and actions of inspiration. I would instead urge you to simply turn to your neighbors. Among each other you will find stories like that of Dolores Diaz, a nurse manager from Dallas, Texas, whose team was selected to lead North Texas’s drive-through testing effort; stories of the Dallas Independent School District cafeteria workers who have distributed over 1 million meals to children in the area; and stories of Dallas Area Rapid Transit employees delivering groceries to seniors and disabled individuals. Though it should not require a global pandemic to make visible such acts of generosity, I am reminded that it is out of crises like these that our nation’s spirit is reborn.

Despite our collective effort, tens of thousands of lives will have been lost when all is said and done. Let us refrain, however, from reducing those lives to a statistic and instead remember them as they were: brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, moms and dads, grandparents, friends, neighbors, co-workers – our fellow Americans. Though we now face the difficult task of filling the void in our hearts that their presence once occupied, it is my hope that the burden is lessened knowing that we stand together, six feet apart, but united.

We, a profoundly grateful nation, thank you, pray for you, grieve with you, celebrate success alongside you, and will never stop honoring you.

Johnson represents the 30th District of Texas and is chairwoman of the House Science Committee. She is the first registered nurse elected to Congress.