With this Mask I Thee Wed

Posted Jul 30, 2020, by Heaven Sensky

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This blog was written by CCJ member and supporter Jeremi Sensky (aka “Heaven’s dad”). It is the 17th installment in our What’s on your mind? blog. Enjoy!

I, unlike every generation before me, have never been asked to sacrifice or do anything to protect others. I am very proud that I have the opportunity to be selfless and protect so many others with such a simple task as wearing a mask. Many of us take for granted this privilege that has been bestowed upon us. Some will come up with many reasons not to be involved in this solution rooted in personal accountability; I would like to know why any would seek a reason not to be. 

Set aside all of the lies being spread about the dangers of wearing a mask, and search yourself for the common sense in it all. I feel the need to clarify the simplicity of it, since I have encountered so many who do not understand how masks work because of a lack of information, and because of dangerous misinformation. It is a very simple concept that is easily explained and comprehended if you just take a moment to think about it. If you wear a mask, there is a barrier that slows, and even stops, anything coming from your mouth or nose. That means that when you are close to someone, they have less of a chance of breathing in, or otherwise coming into contact with, something coming from your mouth or nose. 

If you are close to someone, even just by walking through a store, and they are wearing a mask, the barrier of a mask between their mouth and nose impedes anything coming from their mouth or nose from reaching others. If everyone wears a mask, they are protected from you, and you are protected from them. Some people spread the virus without even knowing that they have it (i.e., they are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic). This makes it so much more important to wear a mask. It may sound very simple, but there is a large proportion of society, particularly within our community, that doesn’t seem to understand. This is why I felt the need to share. You would think that this information in itself would have everyone wearing masks to protect us from one another, and to help us to return to normalcy without high risk – which seems to be what everyone wants.

Another alarming issue is people using the disabled, like myself, as scapegoats to file lawsuits against stores enforcing wearing a mask for admittance. I have been a quadriplegic for over 20 years. This means I am paralyzed from the chest down. I cannot move my legs or my hands, and this impacts my ability to breathe. I have a very low lung capacity, making COVID-19 extremely dangerous for me and my family. That being said, I wear a mask. I wear a mask outside, inside, and anytime I am around people in public without the ability to consistently social distance. I also have a face shield that my daughter gave me. 

In addition, when it comes to obtaining resources, there are many options for people with disabilities who choose not to wear a mask to safely do curbside pick up at many stores. Places are even delivering, and at the very least, support systems like that of my wife and daughter make it so that I do not have to go into the store.

Most importantly, those of us with disabilities are the ones most vulnerable to this virus: It is in our interest to have everyone wearing a mask in public, and if we can’t wear a mask, the safest place for us is away from others, period. Beyond this, you don’t know who you may be standing by in the store. While folks may look able-bodied, they could be taking care of someone like me in their day-to-day life. As long as my wife is not safe to access resources, neither am I. 

We have known for over a hundred years that masks slow and stop respiratory virus spread. Millions have already died to prove this true, yet we deny what history has taught us. We are the only nation in the world with the extent of people not only denying the effectiveness of a mask, but the actual existence of the virus itself. It is frightening. 

We consider ourselves a beacon of freedom, yet we use that freedom as an excuse to not only not wear a mask, but to gather in the largest groups of people we can find, without wearing a mask. People in every other country, whether they wear masks voluntarily or by a mandate, wear masks with pride knowing they are not impacting one another by spreading a global pandemic. These countries, if they aren’t already, will soon end the need to wear the mask, in part because they have simply worn masks.  

I am paralyzed from my chest down; my lungs barely work on their own. I wear a mask in public, I have worn it for hours. When I pass people with a mask, we can’t see each other’s faces, but we are smiling at each other, while at the same time those I pass without a mask laugh at me for protecting them while they put me in danger. Masks are not a government takeover, they are not a socialist icon. Even people who are like sheep will grab a parachute when forced off the cliff. We have followed suit on many controversial ideas in the name of safety, and we have lived longer and healthier lives because of them. A mask in the most basic terms is “what stands between a pandemic and life as we knew it”.

If you are looking for support in accessing needs, CCJ can help connect you to resources. To learn more about how you, me, and masks can help return life to normal, you can contact CCJ at 724-229-3550.


  • Heaven Sensky

    Heaven Lee Sensky (she/her) is the Organizing Director with the Center for Coalfield Justice. She primarily serves Washington and Greene Counties on issues of Oil and Gas development and provides support for our organizing team. Heaven has been with CCJ for 4 years, working on a variety of campaigns serving impacted community members including advocacy around the prevalence of rare childhood cancers, the impacts of waste generated and disposed of by the oil and gas industry, and advocating for harm reduction in relation to the opioid epidemic. CCJ is organizing frontline residents through grassroots efforts to advocate for healthy communities with thriving economies. Heaven was born and raised on a small farm in Washington County where her family has resided for 5 generations. She is a first-generation college student and a graduate of American University (Washington, D.C.) with a bachelor’s degree in Communications, Law Studies, Economics, and Government. Before joining team CCJ, Heaven interned in the United States Senate and for the office of Barack and Michelle Obama. She lives with her husband Casey and her dog Olive on her family farm. Contact Heaven at heaven@centerforcoalfieldjustice.org.

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