“FIVE FREEDOMS” – COVID Stories Archive
For the past 17 months, our collective conscious has been focused on the present. This is reasonable, as we have dealt with a virus, unprecedented restrictions on social and economic behavior, and the most expedited societal change ever experienced in peacetime. Yet, after almost a year and a half, we must turn our attention to the aftermath.
We cannot trust the powers-that-be to tell the history of this era or to set the standards by which it will be analyzed. The lessons we will ultimately learn from these events cannot be determined and taught solely by those responsible for making them. Rather, we, the people, must tell and preserve our own stories without edits or curation to make sure that our experiences become part of the history that generations of Americans write and learn. We must objectively collect and archive the experiences of the people, free of ideological or partisan interference.
That is what Covid Stories Archive does. A nonprofit, non-ideological, all-volunteer organization, Covid Stories Archive collects your stories in your own words. Anyone and everyone in the United States is invited to submit their experiences on our website, where we store and archive them in perpetuity. We are currently still in beta mode, but the next step is to make the archive database accessible and free of charge for scholars, writers, students, and everyone.
There is no better way to preserve and learn from our history than through the words of ordinary people who lived through and experienced the era. This is a lesson we learned from past archives, such as the Slave Narrative Collection or the Shoah Foundation. We are fortunate that modern technology and our circumstances today allow us to record and archive our stories directly as the memories are fresh in our minds.
However, we face a different, tragic hurdle in collecting our history today. Our experiences—like everything in this era—are accepted or rejected based on partisanship alone. Covid Stories Archive refuses to play the partisanship game, and we refuse to allow ideology to corrupt our mission. Rather, we are devoted to non-partisanship. We designed a board to this purpose, with two avowed progressives, two active conservatives and three independents. We have also incorporated privacy options to ensure that those who submit their stories need not worry about cancellation—a sad but necessary step today.
The results so far from Covid Stories Archive have been telling. People have stories to share. We have been collecting submissions since May, and these are some of the results:
- 10% of submissions tell about how the childbirth experience was drastically altered;
- 24% tell about issues related to medical care (excluding child birth);
- 20% tell about becoming disillusioned with once trusted institutions;
- 15% tell about school closures, online schooling, child depression, lost learning and missed childhood milestones;
- 22% involve family separation.
Other issues common in the submissions include financial problems, death, depression, suicidal thoughts, confrontations with other people, addiction and new challenges faced by the elderly and the disabled. We are also seeing more submissions that mention vaccines lately. Some submissions detail positive experiences, such as using the lockdown to spend time with an infant, finishing a dissertation during lockdown and finding that Covid restrictions ease personal anxiety. Some people have commented in their submissions that they found the opportunity to share to be cathartic or therapeutic.
Some people just want to share their thoughts on what has occurred in our society as a whole. One submission reads, “everyone sort of lost their capacity for rational thought. People freaked out about getting within 6 feet of one another outside for even a moment.”
A mother shared an excerpt from her journal from the spring of 2020. It reads, “why can’t I get through a day without feeling this knot in my stomach? How can I set a good example for my son? Why can’t I get past this? I feel utterly hopeless.”
Other people share detailed stories of personal experiences that altered their lives and the lives of their family members. One mother wrote about changes in her son caused by isolation and ended with the line, “my happy, funny, outgoing son grew sullen, withdrawn, moody.”
Another person submitted a story of loss. “My 89-year-old mom passed away alone in a hospital, after being denied visitors and an advocate for 6 weeks.”
One woman wrote about the impact of lockdowns on her former coworkers and herself. “We scrounged up jobs in grocery stores, packing food for people too scared to leave their home… Our lives have been destroyed.”
We encourage you to share your stories if you are comfortable. Everyone’s experiences are valuable; everyone’s story will be important as we move forward and seek to understand the true impact of this era on our society.