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Should I go to Dallas? Would you?

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Thousands of eager and spirited early childhood professionals convene annually for a friendly, often crowded, bustling and eventful professional conference, sponsored by NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children). We fly in from around the country (and the world), riding shoulder to shoulder in trains, shuttles, taxis and cars. For four days, we interact, hug and sometimes sneeze, primarily in public spaces.

In our field, we share. We share rooms, cabs, meals, and intimate conversations. We are literally a touching profession.

This year, beginning November 4, our annual conference is slated for the Dallas Convention Center. When you think of Dallas, does either the Dallas Cowboy football team or a soap opera about rich Texans come to mind?

Not likely. We think instead of Thomas Eric Duncan who died from the Ebola virus at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. We think instead of Mr. Duncan’s two nurses, Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, who now suffer from the Ebola virus. We can picture the deeply mourning countenance of Mr. Duncan’s mother, Nowai Gartay, in Salisbury, North Carolina.

Newscasters tell us that an elementary school teacher in Maine, who attended another conference for educators (at a venue 9.5 miles from Mr. Duncan’s hospital) has been placed on a 21-day leave due to “parents’ concerns”. Middle school students in Mississippi were pulled out of their classes because their principal had visited Zambia. Zambia is 3000 miles away from the Ebola outbreak in Africa. As I wait for my car to be serviced in Auburn, MA, I ask an employee: “What’s your take on the Ebola situation?” As soon as she finishes telling me how afraid she is, she decides to wipe down everything around her with disinfectant.