Abbey O’Leary ’24
After the Covid-19 pandemic hit in March of 2020, the way we, as people, interact with others, our communities, and society at large was greatly affected and altered. The virus touched all aspects of life and redefined our world.
Now, despite Covid-19 still being prevalent, we talk about the pandemic in retrospect, looking mainly at the broader strokes of its influence on our world. We discuss how it has affected medicine and immunology. We discuss how it affected the economy. We discuss how it has changed social norms at large. However, each person that has lived through and shared this experience has a distinct and personal relationship to the pandemic.
In an effort to understand the more personal side of the story, Ian Bennett, alumnus of the Class of 1962, has been working on compiling anonymous submissions of personal accounts and observations regarding Covid-19 and the ways it has influenced peoples’ lives.
In communication regarding his book project, Bennett stated the Webster definition of the word masked as, “disguised, concealed, or hidden.” This definition works with the main idea of Bennett’s project, focusing on the anonymity of each account, emphasizing the personal connections and themes of each observation as well as commenting on the ways the Covid-19 pandemic created a communication barrier and changed the way we once “normally” interacted socially and took for granted. To this point, Bennett is decidedly disregarding the ways in which the authorities and institutions have handled the pandemic in favor of shedding light on the truly personal moments, stories, and emotions felt during the pandemic.
Bennett commented that he has included stories provided by a mother who shared observations on the change in driving after the pandemic, now noticeably more aggressive and fast-paced. Also, stories came from an Ivy League student who provided an account of the social anxieties that affected so many people, mainly extroverts after the isolation of the pandemic who no longer could be in an environment that would allow them to thrive with stimulating social interaction. He also discussed a personal observation made by an elderly member of the community who commented on the benefits of the pandemic on his own work life, no longer having to spend the time and money commuting to work; however, this benefit for him was contrasted by an acute negative for his granddaughter, who, as a new member of the workforce trying to establish herself in her career, struggled because she could not meet her colleagues or learn to interact in-person in her new environment.
Bennett has been reaching out to members of the community from a variety of different backgrounds and experiences, including seniors, single parents, Priests, Rabbis, Imans, rural and metropolitan families, international students and families, and school counselors, among others. Bennett has been working to gain insight from these different backgrounds to better detail the day-to-day experiences and realities of the pandemic.
All observations and accounts remain anonymous, so we recommend considering submitting your own experiences to the project! Bennett has provided some staple questions to guide reflections: What changes in your day-to-day life did the virus intrusion bring about? To what extent have those changes become permanent?
This is a call to action to help Bennett in his project and help contribute to this wonderful project on society. If interested in submitting your story, contact email@example.com.