Letters to the Editor: April 9 – 15, 2020
Closing Schools Early is a Loss for F.C. Students
What a shame that the superintendent of Falls Church City schools felt that it was necessary to close the schools early. Was there ever a time when students needed the structure their teachers provide and the knowledge they impart more? The superintendent’s comment — and partial justification for the closing—that students didn’t need to prepare for SOLs and IB exams seems to entirely miss the point of education. Does he really think that the students haven’t lost a great deal of ground during this lockdown, and that any opportunity to gain some of that back is precious?
We have wonderful teachers in Falls Church, as demonstrated by their response to the request for high-quality, 20-day lesson plans. Whenever time with those teachers is reduced, it is a loss for the students. The superintendent may say he always puts the interests of students first, but in this case, I don’t think he did.
Something Special About the Way Things Happen in F.C.
Falls Church is a special place full of happy surprises. Unless newcomers are not trying to meet their new neighbors and explore the local businesses, they soon feel at home. There used to be a term for it: The Falls Church Way. Still, sometimes we need to be reminded of the helpfulness of the folks down the street and the creativity and hard work of our neighbors in the business community.
My wife Nancy and I looked and called all over trying to find masks to help ourselves and some friends through the coronavirus. Then I read a Falls Church News-Press article and learned
that, along with some other local businesses, Zoya’s Atelier had switched from creating beautiful bridal gowns to making masks to help their Falls Church and vicinity neighbors through the pandemic. With weddings delayed, switching to mask-making kept employees on the payroll, even though many of the masks would be given away.
When I called to inquire, owner-manager Amy Bitici answered on the first ring with a happy voice. She said, yes, we could get masks and asked if I would mind answering a few questions. She asked our ages and when I answered, she said we each qualified for a free mask. (Getting old has some advantages besides the grandchildren usually going home with their parents. You may get a free mask in a pandemic.)
She asked for our address and when I said the house number and “Hillwood Avenue” she said that she would drop off the masks in about 20 minutes. I said she need not make a special trip. She explained that she and her family live in the next block of Hillwood Avenue. It turns out that they are the young couple with the growing family. She was about to leave for home and would stop at our house on the way. To the minute, she arrived and we followed the six-feet rule as she passed the package to me.
The next day, as Nancy and I took a walk, we saw them in their yard and chatted for a bit, keeping at least six feet apart. We realized that we had met at Falls Church Chamber of Commerce meetings. So in the midst of a national crisis, Nancy and I have received free masks and made new, young friends. Sure, that could happen anywhere — but maybe there’s something special about the way things happen in Falls Church.
Look Out for Others During This Stressful Time
Two of my neighbors died by suicide in recent years. One I didn’t know; the other had borrowed a cup of sugar one month earlier, and we’d visited with him and his child at the playground the week before. Both were devastating. They were only two of at least seven middle-aged men to die by suicide in the City of Falls Church since 2009. Any local reader likely knew or interacted with one of those men. Suicide, the 10th leading cause of U.S. deaths, is highest in middle-aged and older white men (2.91 per year per 10,000 aged 45-64, in 2016 (CDC)). I’m especially thinking of men, who may be conditioned to believe it is weak to cry, to express vulnerability and sadness, to ask for help. But all ages, genders and ethnicities are vulnerable.
Today’s pandemic and precautions are understandably leading to feelings of grief, anxiety, hopelessness, confusion, boredom, incompetence, restlessness, loneliness, and more. We must be vigilant, especially at home where we are self-isolating, and in our video chats, phone calls, walks and other settings. Fairfax County-Falls Church City statistics for 2003-2011 show 56 percent of people who committed suicide disclosed intent and/or had prior attempts. At this strange and stressful time, let’s turn to each other and tune in to the warning signs: talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves; feeling hopeless or having no reason to live; talking about being a burden; increased use of alcohol or drugs; acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly (more at suicidepreventionlifeline.org). Asking, “How are you feeling? Have you had thoughts of hurting or killing yourself?” and speaking directly do not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts.
PsychologyToday.com and GoodTherapy.org have therapist-finder databases searchable by zip code, specialty, treatment modality, cost, insurance, etc. Falls Church has many highly qualified mental health clinicians, most now offering video or phone sessions. The Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board offers Emergency Services 24/7: 703-572-5679; INOVA has a walk-in Psychiatric Assessment Center: 703-289-7560.
If you are considering suicide or know someone who is, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HELLO to 741741. This national hotline will connect you with a trained volunteer who will listen and help. Let’s look out for the men in our lives, others who may be especially burdened or overwhelmed at this time, and ourselves.
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