For more than a year of this COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have felt trapped, our actions guided by the numbers of people who test positive for the virus.

This past year has felt like that “Twilight Zone” episode where a ballet dancer, an armed forces major, a clown and other characters find themselves in a giant enclosure, wondering where they are, unable to get out. At the end, viewers discover they’re dolls. The COVID-19 vaccines have lifted the lid of that barrel, ushering in light and the promise of freedom once again to visit the people and places we love.

When the Waunakee board of education voted to offer in-person learning again four days a week, my determination to get vaccinated grew. I needed the ability to safely cover events with large numbers of people in person again to effectively do my job.

I began calling two phone numbers provided to me to schedule appointments at SSM Health clinics. It took perseverance; the lines were often busy, and several times, I was greeted by a recording telling me to call again, which I did, perhaps 20 times.

Finally, I got through, and sat on hold for about 20 minutes. And then, I got an appointment the following day.

That first dose gave me not only the first step toward immunity, but also a huge shot of hope and gratitude. I was grateful for the health-care providers with boots on the ground to make it happen, and for all the scientists who worked tirelessly to develop the vaccine itself in such a relatively short period, when compared to other pharmaceuticals.

The experience also led me to reflect on how much we humans are connected through this pandemic. We’ve all experienced the same threats, the same losses, and now the same hope.

Friday, March 26, marked the end of my remote reporting, at least for now. The first large-scale event I have covered as a reporter in more than a year was, ironically, the SSM Health mobile vaccine clinic at Waunakee High School. I spent about 45 minutes talking to folks, taking pictures and following one librarian through the process I had been through.

Just as in the development of the vaccine itself, that clinic was an enormous team effort involving so many partnerships to accomplish one thing: ensure we can safely return to work and function at pre-COVID levels.

Once we all get the vaccine, we can lift ourselves out of that barrel and into the world and begin live again.

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