If We Leave It to the Mainstream Media to Record Pandemic History, It Won’t Be Ours
When international travel came to a halt in early 2020 to slow the spread of the Novel Coronavirus, Juan Manuel Bellestero found himself stranded on the Portuguese island of Porto Santo, a sealed off sanctuary untouched by the virus.
Concerned for his 90- year-old father back home in Argentina, and desiring to be with his family when the world ended, he set course toward his home country using the only form of transportation accessible to him, his tiny 29 foot sail boat.
After 85 days at sea, he reunited with his father.
In the beginning, stories of humanity glittered beneath headlines of dread. Remember when Italy performed a nationwide concert from their balconies at 6:00 pm every night during quarantine? Thanks to the internet, the world was their audience.
Acts of kindness were overwhelming back then.
Remember watching local news livestreams where cities across America honored healthcare workers with car parades? How about the #worldofhearts movement when we covered our windows from coast to coast with a united message?
I remember, but then the geography of the virus widened and transformed into a polarized plague. At some point, I fear we lost our human parts. We’ve become conditioned to the stress and numb to suffering.
Steadily, stories of humanity dwindled from the newspaper pages of pandemic history while the color of our displayed hearts faded through the window.
Two months into the global outbreak, I convinced myself that Coronavirus “running its course” could take years. I started recording one minute video journals each day for future generations of my family.
The hope is that I preserve my experience of navigating life amid a pandemic, because if I leave it to the mainstream media to record history, it won’t be our story. That ship sailed. They’re far too focused on the political soap opera in search of clicks, reads, and ad revenue streams.
My daily video journal entries share moments of an unfamiliar world while grasping for some form of normalcy. I kept track of the days — every one of them —the obstacles conquered and the times I wiped my tears before speaking into the camera while hiding in the bathroom, because I just needed a minute of personal space.
On day 147, I gushed about basic necessitates with an awareness that I’ll never take these things for granted again. We survived a week without electricity and a running water source after a derecho leveled Eastern Iowa.
Monday, August 10, 2020 at approximately 12:12 pm, my daughter and I stood there in disbelief. I pulled my cellphone from my pocket and recorded what looked like a 40 mile wide funnel cloud headed our way. The tornado siren blared in the background. We had less than five minutes of warning. I cut the clip short when we ran to safety.
During the warm months, I recorded clips of us gathered around the firepit for dinner. It’s been a blessing to have the family together at home during this dark and catastrophic time.
I recorded our daily 7:00 pm dance party. Iowa’s brutal subzero winter tried to steal our emotional health. We fought back with Frank Sinatra and Lady Gaga.
The sound of the death knell declaring that COVID-19 took another one of our neighbors drew my husband and me in. We walked down toward the church. I recorded the bell ringing.
It took facing myself in the camera to get back up on my feet when the pain of depression was so unbearable I thought it would kill me.
I may feel alone, but I know I’m not. We’re all in this, weathering the storm. Had I known the effects of the pandemic, or that it would still be in control of our lives a year later, I would have invested my energy in strengthening human connection and sharing stories, which is what I desperately need now.
I squandered the year trying to figure out how to get back to normal when I should have focused on how to forge forward. I think many of us did the same.
As we cross over the threshold into year two of a global pandemic, I took the time to watch the 338 minutes of video journals I’ve recorded so far, and what I discovered was countless stories of humanity that I encountered along the way without ever realizing it.
As one video clip ended and another began, I witnessed the change of seasons, the same as I watched our collective lifestyle and culture change. It’s a human perspective of pandemic history, the opposite of what mainstream media presents.