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In 2003, I was working in HK and China during the SARS outbreak and witnessed entire neighborhoods being quarantined. Airports and city-streets that were normally packed with people and traffic were like ghost-towns, as tens if not hundreds of millions of Chinese chose to stay at home and to avoid people as much as possible. I, on the other hand, had free reign of various Chinese cities and enjoyed sumptuous meals at restaurants that remained open. The only other similar experience was immediately after the massacre of students at Tiananmen Square in 1989 and martial-laws was enforced across China.
A personal anecdote: when I landed at Chek Lap Kok in HK, I cleared immigration standing next to the only other visitors, a mother and her very-young daughter from Malaysia. The young girl looked around and was visibly frightened by the lack of people and immigration officers all wearing face-masks. I’d mine resting beneath my chin so that I can talk to the officer. Seeing her apprehension, I reached in to my carry-on and pull out my spare-mask. I gave it to her, and she immediately handed it to her mother. Unlike the immigration officers and the millions of Hongkongers, this little girl was much more concerned about her mother’s safety than her own. Moved, I gave her my own mask, having brought along an extra pack of face-masks stored in my checked-luggage. She smiled at me, which made the experience all worthwhile. Lesson here is that we are all vulnerable to unexpected danger but are called to serve those in more-dire circumstances. If God will it, we are all dead! So there’s no need to be scared by this latest Corona virus.
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