Column - How would we have felt this time last year if we had a glimpse of what lay ahead?

A view of life in Donegal through the coronavirus crisis by journalist Siobhán McNamara

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What would we have thought it we could have seen what lay ahead?

Each of the Bank Holidays that have taken place since the coronavirus crisis began have been preceded by much trepidation, particularly for those living in the vicinity of  main beaches and tourist hotspots here in Donegal.

With freedom of movement across the country and some visitors arriving from abroad, this weekend could be the busiest to date.

Already the car parks are full, hotels and restaurants are reporting a steady trade and there is a great buzz of activity across Donegal.

Hospitality businesses have been doing a great job of implementing Covid-19 safety measures. It is also up to all of us as individuals to keep making an effort to play our own part in keeping ourselves and each other safe. We all know at this stage what is required.

This weekend should have been a very busy one for me. Instead, I'll be taking a few days off work and recharging - quietly. 

Our dragon boat club Donegal Dragons was due to host our annual Regatta at the pier in Donegal Town this Bank Holiday weekend. Dragon boat Regattas are hugely colourful, celebratory and competitive events. In recent years we have welcomed dragon boat paddlers from all around Ireland as well as some from the UK, France, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Many of these had planned to join us this year, with a full crew of 20 Canadians having booked a place. It would have had a real international flavour with friends from other countries including Germany also having planned to take part.  

A significant number of dragon boat paddlers are breast cancer survivors. The sport is proven to be particularly beneficial in reducing the reoccurrence of the disease, as well as reducing lymphoedema associated with breast cancer surgery.

Those who take part are embracing the challenges of life after cancer, finding an activity that gives them a new vitality and focus  as they rebuild their lives. This all helps to make dragon boating a great celebration of life, as well as a colourful and exciting sport.

I find myself thinking of the fantastic atmosphere and great day's racing we enjoyed here in Donegal Town last year. Little could we have known how much would have changed by the time our Regatta date came around again. 

If, as we celebrated the success of that wonderful day last year, we could have had a glimpse of what would be happening 12 months later it would surely have been terrifying - 16.7m confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 659,000 deaths worldwide, close to 26,000 confirmed cases and 1,764 deaths in Ireland alone; people wearing face masks in public spaces, workplace temperature checks and hand sanitisation stations, and much more.

However,  if that glimpse had also shown us how well we have adapted, how we would find ways to adjust and to cope, to support and care for our most vulnerable citizens through the worst of the crisis, we would surely have found many reasons to feel hopeful.

Yes, the pandemic has been devastating especially for those who have lost loved ones or have been left with lasting effects of the virus.

But it has also reminded us that there are many reasons to celebrate life, resilience, solidarity, and to keep focusing on coming out the other side of this and the many other traumas that come our way in life, stronger and more focused on the things that really matter.

If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Donegal Live editorial team any time. To contact Donegal Democrat and Donegal People's Press, email editorial@donegaldemocrat.ie To contact Donegal Post, email editor@donegalpost.com To contact Inish Times, email editor@inishtimes.com.

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