We are approaching the once incomprehensible two-year anniversary of experiencing and experiencing a global pandemic. I believe this is a good time to look back at the pandemic as we press reboot and move forward, perhaps wiser and definitely more grateful.

With nearly 500 million infected worldwide and nearly 6 million dead, this pandemic has made a profound and lasting impression on everyone in the human race. In the U.S., we have had 80 million cases with more than 950,000 deaths, and those numbers continue to grow. We all know people who have been affected, and many of us know loved ones who have died because of this insidious virus.

In retrospect, this pandemic crept up on us in the first weeks of 2020, and none of us knew what to do with it. At the time, many of us did not appreciate the scale of this impending catastrophe or thanked it very little. At first, some thought it was a trivial or localized outbreak in China. Unfortunately, this was staggeringly more achievable than previously reported.

In the early weeks, many of us did not know how or what to respond to. However, everyone remembers when it hit home. I well remember how early in the morning of March 9, 2020 I received a phone call from Rick Cotan, Executive Director of the Port Authority, about mandatory quarantine among many of our senior staff, and at that exact moment we had to make a game plan on the fly.

For the port administration, this meant maintaining the safety of our staff and their families while keeping vital transport and commercial routes open. Rick and I had grim conversations that day and many times after that. We acknowledged that there was no grand game plan or game book to help us in this time of need, but we knew one truth was that failure was not an option.

The very goal of the then 99-year-old port administration is to survive as it is and keep everyone ahead. Thinking about it, I would never have guessed what the agency would look like in the first weeks of 2020 in two years. It seems a lifetime ago.

Make no mistake, it is the steely will and indomitable spirit of the staff of the port administration in the past, present and future have allowed to survive and continuously progress.

Today, the port’s leadership is determined and strong, moving forward with a comprehensive and well-designed plan. We are returning to life before the pandemic, as our figures return to the “so-called” normal. I can never thank 8,000 employees and our countless partners for persevering.

Senior staff, and you know who you are, is a special breed of leader who taught, instructed, and led this crusade. Some leaders just lead no matter what.

Let’s keep in mind that two-thirds of the agency’s employees came to work every day, even when they were afraid of the unknown. How to say thank you for that? Others worked remotely (many longer days and nights) and all this to keep the port administration focused and working.

We can’t say thank you enough.

To the leader who once in a generation, Rick Cotan, I say thank you for your leadership, balance and leadership. You are a wonderful person. The port administration is coming out of this pandemic stronger and more focused mainly due to your special ability to drive quietly while under fire.

Thank you, my fellow Commissioners, for leading and providing a stable and stable leadership – this region owes you all.

It is time to move forward to our new reality with gratitude and perspective.

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