It would be easy to fill this space by writing about the negatives that have come from this COVID-19 pandemic.

Sickness, death, fear, cancelations, a senior year ruined — just to name a few.

But, what I have actually learned is that those of us who call Duplin County home are lucky.

Lucky? Yes, I know we have endured the devastating effects of hurricanes, floods and most recently, the pandemic.

But, we are still lucky because we live in a county where the community comes together in times of crisis. I knew our community was special after what I witnessed with Hurricane Florence, but this past year has further proved our community’s commitment to one another.

Our public servants are passionate and truly care about seeing our county thrive and prosper. They are willing to go above and beyond to make sure the needs of the community are met, no matter the personal sacrifices that may require.

When the pandemic hit last March, everything stopped. After a few weeks of sleeping late and enjoying unusual free time with my family, I started to feel quite unproductive, and I wanted to find a safe way to get involved. I learned that the Duplin County Health Department needed extra help since we were considered a “hot spot,” and I was able to volunteer.

For several weeks I worked closely with Mrs. Rose Kornegay, the Communicable Disease Program Manager. I witnessed Mrs. Rose and Mrs. Tracy Kornegay, Duplin County Health Department Director, as well as several other individuals, work long hard hours to en sure the needs of our community were met.

Each day as I would leave, usually around five, they would be working away with no intention of leaving for several more hours — not to mention that

Saturdays were and are just another work day to them. Many were completing tasks not necessarily in their job description, and administrators had to come up with new, innovative ideas to combat new challenges along the way.

These individuals were willing to work together and give extra effort because their job wasn’t just a job to them; it was clear that they devoted themselves whole-heartedly because they care about the well-being of our community as a whole.

The employees at the Health Department are just one example of greatness I have seen during this crisis.

Again, it would be easy to focus on all the negatives during this last year, but I honestly feel lucky when I think about all that this community has done and continues to do for each other.

From hospital staff going the extra mile, to teachers learning how to do their job differently and doing whatever it takes to reach their students, to churches going above and beyond and often out of their comfort zones to provide an opportunity for worship, to coaches giving extra time to find any means possible to practice and make sure we have a season, to schools working to provide their students, especially seniors, with as many normal events as possible, our community has made the most of this terrible situation.

I know none of this has been easy, but this county has stepped up to ensure that our community will survive this crisis and continue to thrive after it is over.

I have been inspired by this event and these individuals and hope to one day contribute to this community just like those I have observed. When I leave for college next year and am inevitably asked where I’m from, I couldn’t be more proud to say I am lucky to call Duplin county home.

Ava Hall is a senior at North Duplin High School.