There are ‘essential’ people and then there are essential people – which are you?

Over many decades (eons?) in this business I have had many emergency passes to cover things: Riots, demonstrations, demonstrations that turned into riots.

The reasons for the passes cover the waterfront, from mass shootings to follow-ups to mass shootings — a lot — to riots again, then major marches and events with the potential for violence.

I still have a lot of them. One was orange and glowed in the dark. One from the super-secret National Security Agency was a pass showing I had visited the super-secret place. I asked if I could keep it and they said yes, but by the time I drove from their headquarters in Ft. Meade, Maryland, to my office in downtown Washington, D.C. all the writing had disappeared. It was just a blank piece of plastic. NSA — I should have known.

But the idea behind many of the passes was that I/we, as emergency or essential people if you will, could stand out as official. We were doing what some would say was a vital job. The idea, I think, was so it would be easier for the good guys to identify us, or maybe to make us easier targets for the bad guys? Hmm?

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Anyhow, my latest such badge of honor is a letter, encased in plastic which says the bearer, in this case me, “is providing emergency communications sustainment and restoration support to critical communications infrastructure facilities in response to the COVID-19 declaration of national emergency.”

I took it in stride, as befits a veteran (and ancient) news guy. But secretly it made me proud, like the others. Maybe it’s something in the blood, the ego? Whatever it is, I’ve got it.

Kind of a first responder — cool!

But not really. I’m not taking any more chances than most people. This is a worldwide killer virus.

I heard a report on NPR the other day (so it must be true) which said that a huge percentage of the workforce in metro Washington are considered to be first responders. And by definition that menas those of you who don’t work in D.C. but do federal stuff, like inspections, and law enforcement, and research, and air traffic control. Border patrolling, including finding weird and sometimes deadly stuff in luggage and containers, from bugs and germs and fruits that could harm the economy, and also maybe kill a lot of us, if it got into the country.

You get the idea because many of you are the idea. You are the reason for the special passes which often allow you, on behalf of us, to go into harms’ way every day, as part of the job.

Many people consider the media essential, and in a sense it is, up to a point. And also compared to what? It’s nice to give you guys good news when there is such. And it’s helpful, I hope, to report the bad when it will lessen the impact or maybe explain what’s happening. Or what alternatives you might have.

But I’ve realized over a long, long time in covering the federal family that not all reporters like the people they report on or respect them, or give a rats’ bottom what really happens to them. Which is where I got lucky. At some point early on I fell into this beat which allowed me to deal with and sometimes rub shoulders with some of the coolest, smartest, bravest people alive.

Most of us will get through this. Maybe be stronger, smarter, a little more grateful than we were before. As for me, I will cherish my latest first responder pass like the others. But I know who the real heroes are.

Thanks, that’s the end of the gushing. Back to reality!

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Amelia Brust

Men with brown hair may have red beards due to a single mutation in the gene MC1R, which controls pigment production in hair cells. MC1R codes for the protein melanocortin, which converts the red pigment into the black one. But it may behave differently depending on where in the body it is, causing two different hair colors on one person. By contrast, full redheads have a double mutation.

Source: Livescience