Our country and community are headed to the stars, but the journey is hard. A monster bug is in the way and we must defeat it.

The 36th annual Space Symposium was to begin March 30 at The Broadmoor’s newly expanded expo center. It would be a banner year, the first symposium since Congress and President Donald Trump established the new Space Force in Colorado Springs.

Then came the coronavirus, a microscopic germ taking on major institutions that seemed invincible. No individual, business, or organization can ignore the virus and go on with life as usual.

That reality hit close to home Friday, which marked a sad occasion that dwarfs lost opportunities and revenues. An El Paso County woman became the first Colorado resident to die of the disease. She died on the day Trump declared the virus a national emergency.

Life as we know it has changed. Some of our favorite businesses are closed. Once-in-a-lifetime vacations are canceled. It is hard to find cleaning supplies, toilet tissue and bread.

No one, even two weeks ago, could have foreseen the cancellation of athletic seasons, music festivals, the closure of schools, and indefinite postponement of the world’s largest annual gathering of space and aerospace engineers and scientists.

Churches, mosques, temples, synagogues and other places of worship are closed until further notice.

The virus imposes devastating costs to society. Investments and lives are on the line. Layoffs are inevitable. More will die before the virus runs its course. Everyone will suffer in one way or another as it moves through the country.

The growing death toll and the state of emergency declaration underscore the need for everyone to do their part in stopping this virus in its tracks. Americans should set aside, perhaps permanently, petty differences with friends, neighbors, colleagues and social media contacts. We should agree that we are all in this together. Our common interests of health, wealth, and survival far outweigh our social and political grievances.

Americans are advised to avoid crowds and close contact with strangers, meaning they must curtail an assortment of conventional activities long taken for granted. People feeling ill are asked to stay home. Individuals have taken these advisements to heart of their own free will.

No government authority has forced this behavior. Individuals, mostly free to do as they please, have self-imposed these measures because they care about their communities and the greater good of the United States. They are fighting for their country.

We have become compulsive hand washers. Or, at least a much higher percentage are washing hands frequently and thoroughly. People are sanitizing phones, remote controls, doorknobs and other surfaces.

If Americans treat this pandemic as a wake-up call, they can get through it better prepared for whatever crisis strikes next.

Going forward, we should continue with some of the best behaviors the coronavirus imposes on us. We should stay at home when ill. We should continue washing hands thoroughly. We should carry anti-viral wipes and clean the surfaces within our easy reach. We should gradually stock up on water, basic household products, and shelf-stable food — giving every household at least three weeks of contingency supplies.

We should care about people more vulnerable than ourselves, sharing our energy, resources and concern to help them cope with life’s challenges.

People of the United States love their country. They will do whatever is needed to protect the American way of life.

Let’s defeat this ugly diseases and come roaring back as a nation that gathers for socialization, recreation, education, music and the arts. Let’s go ad astra per aspera — to the stars through difficulty.

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