Pine Nuts: One brave lady |

Pine Nuts: One brave lady

This morning I read a most compelling article in the New York Times by one of my favorite journalists, Helene Cooper.

Customarily, as the Times’ Pentagon correspondent, Ms. Cooper writes about guns and butter, but knowing she was on a team awarded a Pulitzer for coverage of the Ebola epidemic, her piece of today (Sept. 12) carried much weight with me.

I shall share a portion of it here with you…

George Washington University invited me to participate in Moderna’s vaccine trial because I am triple-risk: a Black woman, a Type 1 diabetic and asthmatic. I was tediously stirring a roux for the seafood gumbo I was making for dinner, and her startling announcement stopped me cold. In an instant, a dozen emotions ran through me, chief among them fear.

I hadn’t thought of the placebo part of the vaccine trial when I signed up. I am a Type 1 diabetic — a chronic autoimmune disorder I have had since I was 15, with asthma to boot, so I am firmly in the high-risk category. That had been made clear to me by Dr. Fauci himself in early March when I ran into him in the green room for NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“What happens if I get Covid?” I had asked him.

“I’m not saying you’re a dead duck,” he replied, “but I cannot stress enough that you really need to not get it.”

That day, I went home and put into place what I called my Ebola protocols, the same behavior that had worked for me in 2014 when I was covering the Ebola pandemic in Liberia. No touching. Rigorous hand-washing. Disinfectants. I had known then that if I caught Ebola, I would probably be skirting dangerously close to Dr. Fauci’s dead duck.

Wow! I was still in bed this morning, sipping coffee and nibbling on a pine nut muffin when I read this moving account of Ms. Cooper’s, and I never try to type in bed because it is impossible for me, but I could not resist typing Ms. Cooper a laudatory note of thanks …

Dear Ms. Cooper,

You’re our hero, to my mind right up there with Joan of Arc and Harriet Tubman.

To volunteer for the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine trial as a triple-risk, asthmatic, diabetic black lady is bold, brave and altruistic. When this infernal virus is finally conquered by scientists, doctors, nurses and gutsy journalists like you, well, I’m coming out there and inviting you out for a seafood gumbo dinner and drinks.

Thank you, Helene!

I sent that missive off to the letters to the editor address, and before I finished my coffee and pine nut muffin I had a response from Ms. Cooper herself …

What a great letter!!! Thank you.

I accept your gumbo Invite, heh.

Helene Cooper


The New York Times

So as you might guess, my goal in this pandemic season is to get to take my hero, Helene Cooper, out for seafood gumbo and drinks to celebrate her gallantry, our goodbye to Covid-19, and a hearty hello to a new beginning … I can’t wait!

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at

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