In 1997 the people of the Red River Valley battled a flood. It was a monumental effort with some losses, but for the most part the battle was won by the sandbaggers. People from all over volunteered to lay sandbags, to work on food trucks, to drive busses and we did whatever it took to defeat the flood. I was lucky because my house was well above the 40-foot mark, but like thousands of people I volunteered to fill and lay sandbags.

Now we are engaged in a much bigger fight. The issue is that the deadly COVID-19 virus is invisible to the naked eye is spreading, mutating and has killed more than a half a million people in the United States. Unlike the encroachment of the Red River where engineers could pinpoint where sandbags were needed to contain the river, we cannot see exactly where the virus is. Any one of us can have and spread the virus. If you think about it, wearing a mask is every bit as important as laying a sandbag was in 1997. It is the best way to prevent the spread of the virus.

After 1997 many homes and other building were replaced by dikes. We have a planned diversion and are working to make sure that the devastation that a Red River Flood can cause never happens again. This is exactly what we are trying to do to prevent the virus from spreading and mutating. The use of masks is like the sandbags but the vaccination is like building dikes and the diversion. Wearing a mask and getting a vaccination not only protects you but also protects the community and especially the most vulnerable among us that can’t get the vaccine. Sandbagging was not a Republican or Democratic issue, just as wearing a mask and getting a vaccination should not be political. Life will get back to normal and with masks and with the vaccine we will get there more quickly. Wear your masks and get vaccinated to protect us all.

Mark Kummer lives in Fargo.

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