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.
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I was definitely feeling like I had barely made it out in the last possible window
I was in Medellin, Colombia when social distancing began in late March. I experienced being in quarantine in Medellin and didn't know if I would be able to leave to return to Minnesota which caused me to feel somewhat concerned. I was hearing that the U.S. was advising American citizens to return, and Colombia was advising foreigners to leave. When I first searched for flights, they were sold out, and I thought I would have to stay in Medellin for at least another 30 days. They were not allowing buses to operate since they held more than a few people, and taxis could only go to limited destinations, such as the airport. Incoming flights from other countries were prohibited, and the border with Venezuela, and later Ecuador, was closed. Some of the information provided was incorrect, which added to the stress and confusion. People were to stay at home, and only one family member could go to buy groceries or to the drug store, the businesses that were still open. There were security guards at every entrance and exit of the stores that were open.
With an additional search, I was able to get on flights out of Medellin to Panama City and Miami, and then to Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) on a different airline. I learned that the day of my flight was the last day my first airline was flying out of South America. I got to Miami where I had two flight cancellations and three different bookings to return home. I had to spend the night in a hotel, get rides to and from the airport, and order food for delivery, all of which added to the expense of my trip. I found out my hotel was closing the next day, except for emergencies. I was definitely feeling like I had barely made it out in the last possible window. I have to wonder what would've happened had I not left when I did.
My last flight cancellation was re-booked on two flights, from Miami to NYC and from NYC to MSP. I had learned how bad things were in NYC, and asked if there were direct flights to MSP because I felt very concerned about the possibility of the flight from New York being cancelled and/or traveling with people leaving NYC. Luckily, I was able to get a flight from Ft. Lauderdale to MSP. I learned there was a train I could take from Miami to Ft. Lauderdale and then take a bus to the airport. This is what I chose to do.
I was in Miami right at the end of spring break where the beaches had not been closed, so I was somewhat worried about the possibility of picking up the virus there, not to mention the possibility of having that happen on three different flights home. I am grateful that Minnesota took more extreme measures to curtail the spread of the virus than did Florida.
The flights from Medellin to Panama City and from Panama City to Miami seemed pretty normal, as did the airports, except for the fact that most passengers were wearing masks. One mask had lips like the joker painted on them, and I saw other glimpses of people's creativity and humor. People were serious, yet positive, in general. The Miami airport was quite different as I had never seen an airport so empty. I met a Delta pilot who showed me to the train and he told me they were flying planes with two or three people on board. He was worried there wouldn't be enough flights for him to fly. My flight from Ft. Lauderdale was probably about half full, at most. I had the whole row to myself, which was an unusual experience.
Upon my return to Minnesota, we were being encouraged to stay home and only go out for necessities, but that became a stronger directive a few days after I returned. We have been experiencing warmer weather and sunny days which is helping. I'm noticing many people out walking or riding bikes, more than usual.
From my perspective, this pandemic has truly shown how the whole world is interconnected and how intertwined every aspect of society is. One thing definitely impacts another, like dominoes, only in a more complex way.
~ Woman returning home from abroad
When a screen is not enough
Friends of ours wanted to gather socially, so instead of a virtual/Zoom event, we brought lawn chairs and sat, 20-feet apart on a tennis court in Wayzata!
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
I will not sugarcoat the truth
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
Suddenly at home
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.
Cancer during the time of COVID-19
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
Weekly live stream
(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
Art and humor have transcended this pandemic
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