Archiving your COVID-19 stories

Blaise Keller
Updated: May 26, 2020 05:44 PM
Created: May 26, 2020 01:19 PM

(ABC 6 News) - What has your experience with COVID-19 been like? Have you had a friend or family member contract the virus? Have you contracted the virus? What has working from home been like? Do you think that there's a better way to slow the spread of the virus? However you feel, the History Center of Olmsted County wants to hear from you as they record what life is like during the pandemic. 
The decision to reach out to the community came before Governor Tim Walz ordered all non-essential businesses to close and issued the stay at home order back in March. Wayne Gannaway, the Executive Director of the History Center of Olmsted County, tells ABC 6 News that the center could tell that this (the pandemic) was going to be an important moment in history. Now, when visitors go to their website, they'll find a link asking for them to take a moment and write their story.
 "They can feel like they are part of history... they are contributing to it and not just the scientists and the doctors, but it's the everyday people as well," says Gannaway.

In one story received, one person writes that the "world has changed a lot" since the start of the pandemic.

Another person writing that he and his wife have "hunkered down" in their house. Being elderly, in their 80s the author writes, they've had several offers from others to buy them groceries.
"It helps us record the mindset, the feelings... where people are at, in terms of their emotions, in the moment," says Gannaway.

But as the center is asking community members to write down their experience through this pandemic, Gannaway and others at the center have noticed some similarities in previous writings they have archived.
 "When I read these letters, these newspaper articles, I see some of the same questions that we're asking today, almost word for word, they asked then in 1918." 
 In one such letter, the author writes to their child how their father was safe while doing business in Canada. However, a person their father came into contact with died due to complications from the flu. The author stating that "the doctors would have the flu controlled if everyone could stay home." 
 The Spanish Flu would go on to become "the most severe pandemic in recent history" according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC.) Records state that the Spanish Flu was first documented in the United States in the Spring of 1918. This strain of the H1N1 virus would impact the globe through 1920 through a total of four waves, killing an estimated 50 million people and infecting around 500 million. Which was a third of the global population at the time. 
Gannaway says he wants community members to continue to write their stories even when a vaccine is developed and distributed. Gannaway went on to add that the center would like to make an exhibit, one day, showcasing how Rochester and the surrounding community have been impacted by pandemics like the Spanish Flu and COVID-19. 

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