A herd of bison running across the field.

Fight, Flight Or Freeze?

The COVID-19 pandemic can create three states of mind:

  • Fight
  • Flight
  • Freeze

Where do you find yourself?

The Spring Breakers in Miami just wanted to chill out, enjoy the beach and party like there was no tomorrow. They were in denial of the situation and just didn’t care about the impact their behavior might have on others. It was all about the Me, Myself and I. I’d label this: Freeze.

Understandable are those of us in Flight mode: The New Yorkers who are leaving the city and are heading to Florida before the city gets quarantined, i.e. locked down, or just too dangerous to live in.  Or the American vacationers in Europe (especially in Italy) who were trying to beat the midnight deadline and catch a flight back home.

On April 25, 2016 President Obama signed into law the national Bison Legacy Act which designated the Bison as the official mammal of the United States. This legislation passed congress a month earlier. Why do I bring up the Bison when talking about the Corona virus? Because it is the Bison’s behavior which demonstrates well the Fight mindset. First off let me state that a Bison is something different from a Buffalo, although they are often confused. Bison are big fluffy animals that grow to 11.5 feet in length and can weigh up to 2,200 lbs.

Bison run fast, up to 40 mph, while cows top out at 25 mph. It is also interesting that when confronted with a storm, bison instinctively run into the storm while cows turn and run away from it. Needless to say, cows can’t outrun the storm and spend much more time in the middle of it than do the bison, who power through and quickly get to the other side of the storm.

Wilma Mankiller who was born in Tahlequah, Oklahoma in 1945 became the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation in 1985 and said this about adversity:

Cows run away from the storm while the buffalo charges toward it – and gets through it quicker. Whenever I’m confronted with a tough challenge, I do not prolong the torment, I become the buffalo.

On 911 the American Bison were the firemen who ran up the stairs of the Twin Towers and the many first responders that risked their lives as the cement and steel was raining down from above; or the passengers aboard United Flight 93 that thwarted the terrorists plans of hitting the Whitehouse and tragically died in a field in Shanksville, PA.

Fast-forward to the present: the American bison are the doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who everyday walk into the Corona virus storm and risk their lives to help others. Or the police officers on the front lines working to enforce CDC guidelines while at the same time maintaining law and order. As of today, 14% of the NYC police force have been infected by the virus.  We must also give thanks for the thousands of men and women in uniform who are setting up make-shift hospitals in Central Park or caring for people on floating ships.  And what about the check-out clerks and stockers at Trader Joe or Walmart, who go to work every day not knowing what they might be exposed to?

So, as many of us work or study from home and complain about our personal situation, let’s give thanks to all of those American “bison†who head out into the storm each day as we live with the Corona virus. And if you see the opportunity to help a neighbor who can’t buy food due to age or an underlining health condition or to volunteer at a local food bank, I hope that you will think of the bison. Maybe it will give you new courage to face the storm rather than run from it or just freeze in helplessness. The bison knows instinctively that the storm passes quicker if it runs into it. We don’t have that luxury but we do have a lot of role models.