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.
I am a 3rd grade teacher. We were given notice and two days to say goodbye to our students. We were instructed to assure them that the school closure would be for the eight days that the governor ordered, but I knew better. We all knew better.
I took the opportunity to gently explain what was going on in the world, assure them that we would all be ok, but also let them know there was a very real possibility we would not see each other again this school year. We cried and hugged. Some of them refused to leave the classroom knowing they may not be back for longer than others thought it would be.
The following school day, the real work started. I started preparing a “distance learning” plan. We were expected to digitally deliver content to our students and needed a plan within those eight days. So there we worked tirelessly for eight full days doing the impossible. Putting together something no teacher had been trained for or had the time to do. We did it. Packets of learning went out to students, separated by week. They went with encouraging notes, school supplies and lots of love. Students picked them up from the school and for those who couldn’t, they were delivered. Lunches are delivered to families who can’t get food themselves. Companies have offered free internet to families without.
Now I teach through virtual meetings with students who will and can participate. I send daily video messages letting my students know I still care. I text, call, video chat as much as they let me while still trying to teach my own children from home. I put a smile on my face every morning because I know they need me but I really feel like my spirit is broken and I can’t do this anymore. We will be doing this for the rest of the school year and my heart breaks for the students and teachers who have lost so much and for parents who are trying their best at an impossible task. I lose sleep thinking about if my students are retaining knowledge but more about if they have enough food and if they are being loved enough at home.
We will do this because we are teachers and that’s what teachers do; we do the impossible every day. It doesn’t make it any easier though.
~ Suddenly a “virtual” 3rd-grade teacher
All of my clients are non-essential and customer-facing. I can work from home, but none of my clients can pay me. I'm so afraid that this will kill my business. But I'm also determined to use this as an obstacle to be overcome instead of something that ends my business. [...] I'm also angry and afraid because of all the racism directed at Asian Americans. This directly affects my family. My husband and daughter are Asian American. I see all the stories of hate crimes and it makes me so angry. I want to scream and yell and hug those that have this directed at them. But I can't hug them because of social distancing.
~ A small business owner
I believe that everyone no matter their circumstances deserves to feel protected during this global crisis of COVID-19. Due to a shortage in PPE, hospitals and clinics around the country have put out a call to the community to create masks for their patients and health care workers. Since responding to this call, I have had numerous individuals and organizations reach out asking if they could also receive masks.
The Ribbon Mask Project is a response to this need. It is also a way to keep this effort sustainable. For every Ribbon Mask sold I will be donating 2 CDC compliant cotton masks approved by Allina to individuals and partnering organizations.
I am aware that handmade masks are not as effective as an N95 or other medical grade equipment, but a cloth mask is better than nothing. While I was making masks to donate to Allina, I was also thinking on how I could make this effort more sustainable in order to keep making them for others. Out of that, came the Ribbon Mask Project, where I wanted to create something special and more as an artistic response. Ribbon, to me is a symbol of identity, survival and adaptation.
I was hesitant about selling them, but now I'm not only able to support this work, but am also able to hire help and to continue donating masks to others.
~ Artist Maggie Thompson, Makwa Studio
This virus, like any other, goes for the poor, incarcerated, chronically ill and mentally ill. Those are populations least likely to be able to get quality health care and no one seems to be able to help them. My entire family lives with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a rare genetic connective tissue disease. My brother also has diabetes, high blood pressure, minor heart problems, and he is HIV positive. To top off his already long life of negative experiences, due to his mental illnesses he is also in federal prison.
It has been almost impossible for us, family, to get information about his recovery/illness with COVID-19. With around 80 people who live or work in his prison sick with COVID, they only have 1 person for family to contact. Privacy laws have hindered who and how much information we can get. It’s disgusting. Even though these people have made a mistake they are still humans with families. However, they do NOT receive quality medical care. Since it’s a federal prison run by the government, which is at this time a laughingstock of the world, it’s not run well or humanely. One day we receive word he is near death and his prognosis is not good and the next day we get any contact we hear the opposite. It’s highly frustrating to say the least.
~ Sister of Covid-19 sick brother, submitted April 25
Update on April 27: My brother died of a massive heart attack due to a clot in his lungs today.
COVID took a good man.
It was hard to believe we are required to stay home. This crisis has impacted me. I took some pictures of businesses that either were closed or available for takeout & curbside signs including this movie theatre on Grand Ave.
~ Photographer Audrey Kludtke
There were boyhood summers on the Dakota plains, when my mother would douse me with DEET and insist, to my acrimonious protest, that I wear long sleeves even if the temperature was a sultry 87. Sometimes, if the mosquitoes were swarming over the porch in the evening, she would forbid me from venturing outside at all. I would implore my father to free me from this imposed quarantine. He would sternly shake his head no, explaining that I could get “encephalitis.”
“You could get brain damage!” my mother would scream from the kitchen as if his five-syllable definition was too clinical for me to comprehend. I’d seen the KELOLAND news. I knew all about West Nile. The way she said brain damage you’d think she had just gargled with acid. For me, being trapped inside my room was tantamount to spiritual death, my precious childhood vanishing like water down a drain.
The tankers trucks rolled by in the quiet afternoons, trailing behind them a sweet cloud of insecticide that smelled oddly like bacon. It seemed like a bulls**t overreaction. Everyone dies, I thought. Each summer maybe one kid in the city would die. But out of 90,000 people, what were the odds it would be me? Damn small I figured, almost nothing. But it was hard to argue with “brain damage.” My blood boiled as I clawed at the circular welts dabbed with pink calamine lotion on my arms and legs. I stewed in frustration, waiting for the plague to end.
I’ve been angry and depressed lately, mourning the restrictions placed on my daily life by this new plague, the COVID 19 pandemic. My children’s schools have been closed, perhaps till summer. This, more than anything, really bothers me. I am blessed in many ways. My wife, a teacher herself, can work from home mostly, so childcare should not be much of an issue. I am grateful for the financial security my job as a letter carrier provides, but I wish I could plan a trip or eat inside a restaurant. Last weekend I invited a friend over for dinner, but he could not make it because he was self-quarantining after a recent trip to Seattle. The situation does get suffocating. I didn’t have to work today. Normally, I would have the house to myself. Instead, I tutored my dyslexic son with his handwriting and taught my youngest, such a math whiz, to play poker. He won all but one hand. Beginner’s luck as they say. Towards lunchtime, I let Emily take over the homeschooling and went for a walk in the rain.
I brought along a trash bag and grabber, intending to pick up litter—a hobby of mine when I don’t know what to do with myself, even in a viral pandemic. I hiked to Minnehaha Falls and in spite of the early spring, there was still a good amount of ice built up around the generous cascade of water. The ice was splattered with dirt on the opposite side of the waterfall while the nearside was streaked with a pretty, but unusual, shade of blue that I associated with melting glaciers or mouthwash. A mammoth hunk of the stuff appeared ready to cleave off at any moment. I descended a long staircase to where the creek was flowing rapidly. After placing a few Dairy Queen cups and Pepsi bottles in my sack, I quickly found that the trail, slick with ice and rain, was nearly impossible to walk on. I fought for traction as I inched along, even using my fragile grabber as a cane to keep from sliding into the churning current. I’d forgotten how icy this side of the fabled creek always gets and I was damn glad, idiot as I am, that I didn’t have the kids along.
But sure enough, it wasn’t long before I made (it) to a stone footbridge. The other side was free of ice and there was a lot of trash. With gloved hands I went to work, feeling like a wet duck in the rain. Burrs stuck to my sleeves and then to my gloves as I tried in vain to pull them off. The whole experience had become rather unpleasant. It wasn’t long before my sack was plum full and too cumbersome to carry much further so I lugged it up a steep embankment to a waiting dumpster in Wabun Park. The underbrush on either side of me was strewn with countless beer bottles--too much work for any one man or woman, at least for today. I wondered if the Parks Department ever did cleanups or if the weeds just grew up so you couldn’t see it. I had done what little I could to cleanse our contaminated Earth. Unburdened by everything except the weight of my melancholy, I followed a gravel trail to the Mississippi River where a pair of guys were fishing.
“Any bites?” I asked from a wooden bridge that spanned the mouth of Minnehaha Creek.
“Not really. A couple little pulls.”
“It’s early,” I said with a nod.
Then I gazed downstream in silence at a river that, today at least, had no answers. This was a spot I often fished, either by myself or with the boys. I’d caught some very respectable walleyes there and the location had inspired some good stories. It was a place I often went to feel better. With all the germaphobia going around, you might be asking yourself why I chose to pick up litter on my day off. The answer, very simply, was that the activity made me feel like I was in control.
Staying home with retired husband, walking every day and taking photos of what my neighbors are doing with their daily time and making watercolor paintings of some of the stories. These watercolors are sent through the mail; to nursing homes and to friends who are frustrated and need cheering up.
~ Artist Kate Maple
As an educator, I see firsthand how the COVID-19 pandemic has already begun to create a gap in student learning in all areas, and without the same hours of daily teaching and support, I feel like I cannot do enough to help my students. I spend hours making videos and conferencing online with students, but not being with them in person is heartbreaking. However, the commitment of teachers to work tirelessly, whether at school or home, is amazing. While this is a different and unique challenge, it is not unusual for us to have to make sacrifices and go above and beyond in our profession. I commend all of those who work in schools for their hard work, flexibility, and empathy.
We have [students] writing a daily journal of their time during this pandemic. I love reading them because they give me hope. So many students write about how they are sad (one even said she was “school-sick”), but with a growth mindset, they will keep working hard and show high expectations for themselves. I have never been more proud of students than this. They have so many distractions at home, and without a teacher there to give direction and focus, they could easily do whatever they wanted. These kids, though, show an immense amount of integrity and grit, qualities I wish on all of those in our world who either continue to disobey the law or endlessly complain without offering solutions. This is not easy for anyone, so we must be in this together.
~ K12 educator
In the pastel drawing, "Essential Worker Portrait #1 - Grocery Cashier and Bagger," I was inspired by my family. My daughter is a cashier/bagger at a Minneapolis grocery store. I have listened to the extensive effort managers and workers have gone through to make the store safer for workers and shoppers. The essential workers, like my daughter, make about $12.50/hr. Management upped their pay an additional $2/hour (hazard pay) with the governor’s "Stay at Home" order which was helpful—financially and mentally. Now the hazard pay may be going away and the virus is still here. Not any safer she says.
It’s exhausting work but necessary. They disinfect everything, again and again, knowing it's important work. She’s happy for the work and to be where she is. She appreciates her coworkers’ and managers’ consideration for them. Folks look out for each other to the best of their ability but it is still a stressful job. I sewed her masks and she gave some to coworkers. I’ll sew some more and send them again. I'm sure this story is shared by many families. We all depend on the essential workers.
Credit Image: Essential Worker Portrait #1 - Grocery Cashier and Bagger, pastel by Carolyn Sue Olson. See more from Olson’s Essential Workers series.
Startling. We always expect a long lead-in to a major world event and this is instant. Longing. I have a new granddaughter, our first, and I want to be there to help her parents who are working, but yet not expose her. I take extensive precautions when I visit her and otherwise have no public exposure. Redirected. Since my volunteer gigs are all shut down, I go to the neighborhood park (Mud Lake) to cut buckthorn and grapevine, pick up trash, pull out deadwood. Can’t go to the gym so this will suffice.