Staff File Photo / Our year of living with COVID-19 has given us a better opportunity to appreciate nature, such as these trees that were beginning to bloom along the Tennessee River waterfront in North Chattanooga on a previous late winter day.

One year. Three hundred sixty-five days, though not a typical January to December trip around the sun.

It's been one year since the first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in Chattanooga.

It's been a year that no one who lived through it will ever forget, and one no one wants to repeat.

As of Thursday, 41,303 Hamilton County residents — about one out of every nine — had been diagnosed with the virus. Of those, 464 died.

It had been more than a century since something so wicked this way had come. At its outset late last winter, we had no manual on what to do and no knowledge of who would be affected, for how long or how to treat it.

Unfairly, it hit the elderly and people of color the hardest, though it spared few demographics.

We lost grandparents and others who were expecting longer lives and active retirements.

We lost individuals in the prime of their careers and parents with children who were not yet grown and even a few younger people who had the bulk of their lives ahead of them.

And of those who got sick but survived, many have debilitating, lingering effects of the virus, effects that will make their return to any semblance of normality impossible.

Either because of temporary shutdowns deemed necessary by the early days of the pandemic (and because of everything we didn't know), or by people's desire to stay inside and avoid crowds, we lost businesses and livelihoods and life savings.

Uncounted but undoubtedly a result of everything the global crisis wrought, we also lost individuals to suicide, to opioid addiction, and to a pervasive sense of uselessness and a desire to give up.

Schoolchildren lost precious time in classes, time that could not be replicated by heroic teachers who bent over backwards and used their last ounces of creativity to offer multiple preparations for students in schools and on screens from home.

We lost the warmth of hugging a friend, the boisterous gatherings with extended family members and the interconnectedness at business meetings, entertainment venues and religious services.

In general, we lost a sense of freedom to do what we wanted when we wanted and where we wanted.

But now, with more than 100,000 doses of vaccines in Hamilton County arms, we see the light at the end of our coronavirus tunnel. We can't throw away masks or gather in large numbers or avoid social distancing yet, but we feel it getting closer every day.

In the meantime, while acknowledging what we've lost, it's not too soon to admit what we've found.

We've found that our reserves of strength to deal with the unexpected and the unknown and the unpleasant were deeper than we imagined. If you told us we would have to deal with this virus for a year, and longer, we'd have never believed we could.

We've found new ways to communicate that unquestionably will play a part in our life after COVID, though we never want to lose the importance of talking face to face, of seeing one's expressions without the help of emojis and of collaborating in person.

We've found a flexibility heretofore known only by those whose jobs allowed them to work from home. We've learned how to work around curious kittens, insistent children and the porch presence of delivery drivers bringing items we ordered online because we feared going into stores.

We've found a a better appreciation of the beauty of nature as a second COVID spring now begins to bloom and birds in species we never knew begin to appear on lines outside our temporary office windows.

We've found the solace of a good book on a screened-in porch beats the necessity of getting to one more committee meeting, that a fall drive across Highway 30 between Dayton and Pikeville is every bit as beautiful as Gatlinburg and costs a lot less, and that curling up in front of your smart TV in your sweats sometimes beats buying tickets for, getting dressed for and driving to concerts, movies and lectures.

We've found life is too short to listen to the perpetually aggrieved, politically intolerable and the plentifully mean-spirited. Instead, the year that we have had has encouraged us to look for the good in our fellow humans, for friends who extend kindness to all, and for situations where what gets accomplished is more important than who accomplishes it.

Soon enough, this plague of sorts will be behind us. But we should never forget what we've lost, what we've found and how the influence of both will help us forge a better community in the future.