What The Sea Has Taught Me About COVID-19

John Konrad
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April 24, 2020

Today the New York Times published a featured article about my friend John Ramey and the people we know who “predicted” COVID19 titled “I Used to Make Fun of Silicon Valley Preppers, Then I Became One.”. The article is well written and accurate but it misses one critical fact. A fact I learned sailing through many storms at sea.

by Captain John Konrad (gCaptain) As a young boy I drove into the South Bronx on my Dad’s lap as sirens wailed, air horns blasted, and our lights painted the city streets red and blue. We parked and dad left me sitting next to his driver on the front seat of his truck. We sat together and watched people die.

That firetruck and too many of dad’s FDNY brothers were buried in 9/11.

The 2004 Asian Tsunami went right under my ship.

We took the last plane out of New Orleans during Katrina.

My crew and I drove a ship through a massive rogue wave.

I’ve cried my self to sleep in hurricane-force winds praying our ship would survive and have yelled at the top of my lungs at petty pirates.

I was in India when the embassy was evacuated because of nuclear tensions and in South Korea when missiles were launched.

We had close friends aboard the Deepwater Horizon.

The wealthiest man in the world (at the time) once pointed a 3-inch gun at me and threatened to shoot.

I was honored to help a friend at the NRC as he led the investigation into Fukushima.

I’ve testified under oath to congress about preparedness in the wake of the worst man-made environmental disaster in world history.

I cried many, many times more while writing the book and once again while briefly consulting on the movie.

And those are just the near misses I’m willing to share. It does not include the grimy details I’ve witnessed at sea or any of the work I’ve helped some of the worlds top special forces operators plan in my role as a board member of Six Maritime

So when my friend John Ramey called me years ago about a site he was thinking about launching I did all I could to help. Today the New York Times wrote a good article about John and our friends who “predicted” COVID19 titled “I Used to Make Fun of Silicon Valley Preppers, Then I Became One.”. The article is well written and accurate but it misses one critical fact: the smartest “preppers” I know are not smug for two simple reasons. They are not smug because- one – they do not want to be right (they, in fact, deeply want to be wrong) and – two – they did not prepare for COVID19 at all. They didn’t know what would happen next. Nobody did.

They prepared for the unexpected hoping to be proven wrong.

And the two things friends like John hoarded in great quantities weren’t toilet paper and masks (although we both purchased plenty of those)… it was knowledge and awareness. 

At SUNY Maritime, the merchant marine academy I attended for college, we had to memorize a saying by the great Captain Felix Reseinberg: “The sea is selective, slow in recognition of effort and aptitude, but fast in sinking the unfit.”

That line is what led me and others like me to be on the lookout and prepare.

Please think about that when this is over. Don’t make the mistake of storing toilet paper and face masks after this pandemic is past waiting for the next virus to strike. The next battle we face may be another pandemic, or maybe not, but it will be different in many dangerous ways.

Don’t expect the next one to be easier or more difficult. Expect the next one to be unexpected. Prepare to be fit and on keep a lookout for the outcomes you could never expect. I could not predict a nuclear disaster soon after a record-breaking explosion offshore. I could not predict a global Tsunamis even after facing down a towering rogue wave. I could not predict my Dad’s brothers would survive the hell of the South Bronx to die years later in a nice office building in Manhattan.

Nobody could.

The sea has taught me many lessons over my four decades of life but none greater than the one I memorized as a young cadet in naval uniform: The world is selective, slow in recognition of effort and aptitude, but fast in sinking the unfit.

John

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