We are living in a historic moment. The Minnesota Historical Society is collecting and preserving Minnesotans’ stories related to the COVID-19 health crisis so future generations can learn how the pandemic has impacted our lives. We invite you to read a sampling of these stories here and to share your story.
This crisis has been devastating for all people worldwide. I have seen illness, pain, sadness, and economic crisis, while at the same time witnessing the very best in humanity, collective resiliency, and innovation. As an Asian American living in the US, I have seen racism, hate and violence increase as a result of dangerous rhetoric against Asian people across the world. It is important for people to come together to dismantle hate and support each other in this difficult time in our history. I have done my best as an individual to adapt to the pandemic, support my community, speak out against racism, and share hope.
One way I have done this is through a photo project documenting friends and families in quarantine. We have been inundated with images of empty streets and dystopian photos that have resulted from this pandemic. I wanted to archive the experiences of people, how people are navigating the changes that have been forced upon us, and to share intimate stories of hope from the intimacy of their homes. By shooting photos through windows, I have added a layer of imagery, replicating double exposure photography, while reiterating the separation between each other during social distancing. In addition to photographs, all subjects have shared written words about their experience, with stories ranging from somber to hopeful, all while telling their individual truth.
Together with artist Leslie Barlow, we have created a quarantine zine, “Connection Unstable.” It contains paintings by Leslie and photographs by myself, Ryan Stopera, combined with social media references, drawings, articles, and other ephemera, creating an archive of current personal and collective experiences during the COVID-19 era.
~ Submitted by artists Ryan Stopera and Leslie Barlow
My husband and I are newish parents. We welcomed our curious little girl into the world in August of 2019. Before she was here and even as she grows, he and I are constantly preparing for the next stage in her development – are these clothes getting too small, how do we introduce solid foods, when is the appropriate time to buy baby gates, do we need to talk to our pediatrician about these persistent sniffles? Despite all the preparatory work parents go through in the first year, no book, blog, class, or podcast could ever prepare you for a global health pandemic. We both work and we’ve been incredibly grateful for our daycare center – they’re still open and still helping our little ones grow every day – but we struggled with the idea of continuing to send her for weeks for fear that she would carry the virus home with her. She is still going today and that allows us to work, but we know so many families who are forced to split up their workday and burn that midnight oil to keep up with business.
I think a lot about how my daughter will learn about the coronavirus as part of her history lesson in school one day and about the questions she may ask us. I will not sugarcoat the truth. Yes, this was an unstable time for so many people across the planet. Inequalities became much clearer as people who needed help couldn’t find care or essential workers were forced to put their families and themselves at risk so that others in their communities were taken care of. Many people died … alone. Many people lost their jobs, faced hunger, and were met with more bills that they couldn't afford to pay. I will tell her that it was hard and sad and terrifying, but there were also good things that happened.
The air became cleaner in many parts of the world, allowing us to fill our lungs with fewer pollutants. People started spending more time outdoors getting much-needed exercise and finding a small escape from the confines of their homes. Friends and family found new ways to connect to each other, despite keeping at least 6 feet between them. Video chats allowed people to check-in and connect. We shared more meals around our tables at home. Family time filled up the daylight hours because we did not have anywhere to go or appointments to make. We resurfaced forgotten hobbies and found new ones to enjoy.
Our life was put on pause and we soaked in every moment we had together. From the impromptu family photoshoots to our weekend adventures, we had each other. In these moments, we had our health and we realized just how much of a gift that truly was.
~ Submitted by Ashley Grossman
Once my wife and I were successfully self-isolating (beginning March 10), I got to reflecting on how privileged we were and are: we have resources enough to weather this, and the stay-at-home order doesn’t much alter the way we live. (I have been working from home for 25 years.) I wanted to give something back to the community that might help us all cope in the unknown times to come.
So I created a community blog called Suddenly at Home and invited friends, neighbors, and everyone and anyone in the Twin Cities to contribute to it, writing about life under the sudden conditions of shelter-at-home, social distancing, work-from-home, and distance learning.
So far there are seven contributors, five besides my wife Katharyn and I. We are writing about using the time to catch up on household projects, the new experience of grocery shopping, walking our dog, making masks for neighbors, simulating the coffee shop experience at home, taking inspiration from a minister’s sermon, walking the neighborhood for exercise, and philosophizing on whether the crisis is bringing us closer together or pushing us apart.
The blog is a work in progress.
I have faithfully gotten my annual mammogram every year since I was 40, and that was 10 years ago. I went in for this year's mammogram on March 9, 2020. The next day a nurse contacted me because they found a change in my right breast. Within two days, I ended up having a biopsy and received the call - it was cancer.
There is no history of cancer in my family, and I come from two large Catholic families consisting of lots of women. :)
It was determined I had micro-invasive ductal carcinoma; associated DCIS grade 3 with associated calcifications and necrosis HER2 positive. Without going into a lot of detail, it basically meant the biopsy showed cancer, with surrounding cells either being cancerous themselves or precancerous.
That same weekend, as I was trying to wrap my head around my diagnosis, the COVID-19 health crisis blew up. As my world came crashing down, so did the country's, with the world already in the midst of it.
On March 17, my husband and I met with my surgeon and scheduled a lumpectomy a week later. I was cautioned that the surgery may be postponed due to supplies, beds, and staff being reserved for COVID-19 patients. My best friend is a respiratory therapist who has been working tirelessly during this national crisis so I understood the necessity to keep both hospital staff and patients safe.
March 23, two days before my surgery, I received bad news. My surgery would be canceled until further notice, as all other breast surgeries (and presumably the majority of other kinds of surgeries) were. My surgeon suggested I could start taking anti-estrogen pills along with chemotherapy, and by the time I saw her all of the cancer may be gone. Without surgery, however, there was no way to know if the remaining cells in my breast were cancerous or not. I didn't want to put my body through chemo if it wasn't needed.
We met with an oncologist the next day, who turned out to be amazing. She fought for me and surgery was scheduled for that Friday, March 27.
My surgeon and the entire health care team were incredible. I received a call two days later that they removed everything and determined all cells were precancerous. I was still put on the anti-estrogen pills and will need approximately four weeks of radiation, but no chemotherapy.
My heart goes out to every breast cancer patient - as well as all other patients - who have had their surgery postponed. I pray for them as I do all people who have battled and been affected by COVID-19, including the doctors and nurses on the front lines. I feel fortunate to live in Minnesota, a state with one of the best health care systems in the country.
~ Submitted by Teri
(Photo credit: Steven Cohen)
As a full-time musician, the pandemic has eliminated my whole means of presenting my music in a live setting (playing live music in bars/restaurants, which are all closed now).
I have started a weekly live stream on Facebook Live and thought perhaps a playlist of my live streams might be a fitting addition to the archives.
~ Submitted by singer-songwriter Dan Israel
Listen to Dan Israel’s live-streamed shows via YouTube.
This is a time of want.
Everyone wants something they cannot or should not have right now.
Some people want a haircut or a manipedi.
Some people want to go to the gym.
Some of us want to go to the beach.
Some want a massage.
Some want their job back.
Or to open their business again.
Some of us want the fever to be just a fever.
The dry cough to be a dry cough.
The compression in the chest to be only the weight of these days.
Some of us want a coronavirus test.
Some of us want their COVID-19 to go away,
To live to fight another day.
Some want to be with a loved one who is quarantined in the hospital.
Some want their loved one(s) back.
Or to celebrate their life at a funeral with family and friends.
Some of us want food in the house.
Some of us want help with rent and bills.
Some of us want to help.
Some of us want a living wage for work now deemed essential.
Some want sports again.
I want sports again. I miss sports
(just not enough to hurry them back).
Some of us want to go to a bar
or a restaurant or the movies
or a play or a poetry reading or a dance performance or a concert
or a bookstore or a coffee shop or...
Some of us want to travel.
Maybe you want to go shopping at a store that's closed
or get groceries without a mask on
or unpack them without making your kitchen a sterile field.
Maybe you are a hospital worker separated from your spouse and kids.
Maybe you want to see them again.
Some of us want the sadness to go away.
Some of us want a good night's sleep.
I am lucky so far, my wants are small.
And still they own me.
I want to be with people IRL, to hug friends who hug and kiss friends who kiss and touch wine glasses and laugh out loud and win at cards or dice or lose and somehow still come out ahead. I want to be with my friends who have lost a loved one - to be present with them in their grief, fully present.
Some of us want a country united in mission and goals.
Some want Sweden, others New Zealand.
Some want different leadership.
Some of us want a coherent cohesive and consistent national plan.
Some of us want the status quo.
Or maybe you just want to go to the park.
Some of us want internet access so our kids can learn.
Or to go back to school in a school building.
Or a break from parenting or being parented.
Or a return to the pious rigors of college life.
Some of us want this to be a hoax.
Some of us want facts to be facts.
Some of us want science to prevail.
Some of us distrust science.
Some of us want to return to normal routines so bad they'll call the whole wide world a lie.
They'll suggest the dead deserved to die.
They'll call to cull the herd
(imagine a despair that endorses suffering and death).
Assign whatever weight you will to your wants and to mine. We all want the same thing too, an end to this pandemic, its grief and pain, a return to our normal routines, and,
if we might want one more thing, let it be this, please:
the wisdom we might gain from all this suffering.
~ By Michael Kleber-Diggs
I have observed that art and humor have transcended this pandemic and that both are invaluable at this time. Folks seem to be searching for something to look forward to in these challenging days, and it’s been through that observation on social media that I’ve established my embroidery project--shedding humor on our current way of life and its shortcomings. Knowing that something I’m creating is able to help someone through their day is meaningful to me during this pandemic.
Creating the images has also served as a distraction for me from the ever-changing news cycle.
Pioneer Press recently covered my project and this was the article link.
~ Emily Sies-Mandel, art teacher
This is my coworker, Anneliese, and myself. We’re turning in our badges as we are about to be furloughed for six weeks. With our face masks it’s difficult to see that we’re actually really excited, because it’s the first time we’ve seen each other since mid-March.
I’ve known for several days now that I’m going to be furloughed. At first the news was somewhat of a relief - it’s been a struggle to constantly shift gears with balancing work, schooling, and parenting throughout the day (and yes, my husband helps). The news enabled me to let go of some of the guilt, knowing that soon I’ll be balancing two roles, rather than three.
Now that I have three days until my furlough, that relief is giving way to a sense of emptiness. Despite working from home, away from the collections, my coworkers and I have done a lot of amazing work, cheered for each other’s successes, and found new ways to collaborate. Though not an ideal situation, it provided a small bit of normalcy amidst uncertainty.
I’m hopeful that the time away will allow me a new perspective, discover new ways to be productive (even on the smallest of scales), and a chance to catch up on my reading (ha!). See you in July!
~ MNHS employee, 30s white female, mom to two children
COVID-19 health crisis has greatly impacted my work. Beginning March 16th, we were told to stay home and work, however possible, remotely. I worked hard on creating a project for others so that they could work from home. After 9 weeks of doing plenty of work, attending many virtual meetings and webinars, and attempting creative ways to stay concentrated and positive I will be placed on temporary furlough for 6 weeks, at the least. This is simply the reality that a safe and distanced world means a very tough financial loss for many businesses, big and small.
COVID-19 health crisis affects us all in our personal lives. I made a move from living alone in St. Paul to living with my boyfriend and his children in Mankato when I started working from home. It went smoothly but with plenty of worries and caution, and while moving always comes with normal adjustments to the furniture and living together, this came with a heavier realization of a new way of living in general. I am continually grateful for my experiences and acknowledge my privilege in that we do not lack essentials, we have substantial internet connection, we will be okay during my furlough, we have been able to get safe outdoors time, and we do not know anyone personally yet that has been sick. Yet we have our moments of pessimism, of missing our families and friends, of sadness for trips cancelled, and of mourning that going back to normal or close to the old normal is a long way off.
There are constant reminders of this grief, this loss of what was once normal, even in the happiest of moments. That is why I took the picture I did of the playground. It was one of our almost-daily afternoon walks through Skyline (town adjacent to our place in Mankato). It was gorgeously sunny and we were either chatting away about fun and pointless things or our next grocery list, then I noticed the caution tape around the playground equipment. It had appeared overnight and the first thought was a natural "oh no, what happened?" then a "are they doing construction?" and finally a "oh, we live in a social distancing world and, of course, how are you going to disinfect and share playground equipment safely with an unknown number of families." My heart hurt to think of children being denied their favorite slide and then my heart hurt more thinking of those that could already be infected or were going to be infected or how many more if their community did not try to encourage everyone to be safe.
~ Caucasian female in early 30s, generally of the Twin Cities now living in Mankato
It's somewhere around 4 a.m. I'm lying in bed, awake. I roughly know what time it is because my husband, who is next to me, is snoring. I've been woken up by vivid dreams. Dreams of my sister, spending time with her. I'm feeling desolate. It has been ten years since I last saw my sister. Nine years since she died. Anxiety rises up. It's almost as much a pattern for me as my husband's snoring is for him. My joints begin to ache, and I long for the relief of falling back asleep. Some mornings, I am able to relax and drift off again. Other mornings, I grapple with the realization that it's going to be a longer day among already long days.
The grief and trauma of past losses has swept into a torrent with this pandemic. I'm 38 years old with a 10-year-old daughter at home. I'm married. My husband has been able to continue working, and continue working at his office, through this time. I'm thankful for that bit of comfort. Still, this leaves me at home, alone, through much of the day to work through grief while attempting to maintain some sort of normalcy for my daughter. I try to help her keep up with her schoolwork, stay busy. We get outside a lot. But I'm overwhelmed. Disrupted sleep doesn't help.
Prior to this pandemic, I'd already been through a lot. My mother died when I was a teenager. My only sister died a little more than a year and a half after my daughter was born. A brother, the oldest of two, was murdered just before my daughter entered kindergarten. I engaged in EMDR therapy last year. I was making a lot of progress. I was looking forward to 2020, hoping that much of the worst was behind me.
Then the pandemic. Just the disruption of the day-to-day routines was enough to push me back into that familiar space of loss. Lack of motivation. Exhaustion. Feeling on the edge of crying. No patience for insignificant difficulties. Anxiety. Fear.
I've been through it enough to know I can get through it again. It's possible. Not easy.
In the first few weeks of the lockdown, I had some tough conversations with my father. The broader scope of what this pandemic could mean for my future is daunting to consider. My father laid out his plans for what he wants to happen should he get sick. He's in the high-risk category, as is his wife. My husband is borderline. He has issues with asthma. He downplays his risk. Then there's my daughter. I don't worry as much about her getting sick as I do about the long-term impact of this on her life. I don't want her feeling the weight of life experience as I do.
I cope through photography, particularly macro photography. I like wildflowers. It's my tradition to get out in the spring and hunt for the ephemerals. At least I can continue to do that, albeit closer to home than I originally planned this year.
Sometimes, I think I should give myself more credit than I do. Maybe I'm stronger than I think. Even on the days where I feel like I've been brought to my knees, I get out of bed. I live with the emotions, let them ride alongside the washing of dishes, going for a walk, asking my daughter for the fifth time if she's done her morning school check-in. I don't feel pity for myself. I long to talk to my mother with an ache that reaches deeper than I can fathom, but I accept that she's not there. I accept that there are aspects of this that I can't change. I focus on where I do have control. And I remind myself over and over that I'm doing okay. My house might still be cluttered. I might not be learning a new skill. But, right now, I'm okay.
And, right now, the people I love are okay.
~ Submitted by Nicole