The real heroes in the fight against coronavirus

Updated 8:15 AM ET, Thu April 2, 2020

In a series of essays called The Distance, Thomas Lake is telling the stories of Americans living through the pandemic. Email thomas.lake@cnn.com if you have a story to share.

(CNN)They were going somewhere dangerous, and most or all were smiling: 29 health care workers on a plane from Atlanta to the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic in New York. It was Friday, March 27. They made heart symbols with their fingers. A ramp agent took their picture, and Southwest Airlines put it on Instagram. By the following Tuesday, when the picture had circled the internet, at least one of the passengers was on the verge of tears.

THE DISTANCE

Americans living apart and together in the age of pandemic

"I'm very scared," a nurse named Letha Love told me on the phone from a hotel in Manhattan, shortly before leaving for another overnight shift treating coronavirus patients at a Coney Island hospital. "You can call it brave if you want to. It's brave. But I'm scared. I'm very scared. But I'm here."
Someday, when all this is over, we'll likely put up statues of people in hospital scrubs. We'll have parades in their honor. Their names will go on bridges, highways and memorial walls. Maybe they'll get their own national holiday. Right now, though, our nurses and doctors are busy fighting for our lives. Some of them are dying.