Voices from the Pandemic
For this project, 8th-grade English students recorded interviews with adults in their lives through StoryCorps Connect, a pandemic-focused version of the ongoing NPR series. Then, following the example of Eli Saslow (Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and brother to Craig Saslow) in his ongoing "Voices from the Pandemic" photojournalism series in the Washington Post, students transcribed their interviews and wrote their own "Voices" narratives in the voices of the folks they interviewed. These short narratives are focused on what the 8th-grade students found most compelling during their interviews, and as you'll see, they're quite powerful.
Life with Michael Snoddy
as told to Heidi L.
My name is Michael Snoddy. I have just turned 60. [Someone who’s had a big influence on my life] is my father. It's funny he's passed away now for probably close to 20 years and last night I had a moment where I was just thinking to myself about how much I missed him. You start to realize the older you get how much your parents shape you and who you are. You start to see character traits you have that are in your mom and your dad and you start to see character traits in your kids … He’s a really kind man, very nice man. [I’d like to be remembered] like my father, kind. I can be a little impulsive, impatient sometimes. I’ve always worked on that in my life, hopefully as a good friend, I'll do anything for my buddies. I'll jump on a plane right now if one of my buddies at home wanted me. I'll do whatever it takes. Being a good husband, being a good father. I got two daughters and a son. So hopefully they feel [that I’m] there for them.
Last night, we went out to dinner. That was the first time we’ve gone out in 6 months. That’s not unique to me, that’s everybody. We’re all on a journey with this (COVID-19) and we're all at different places with it. So at the beginning of the journey, a couple of thoughts come to mind. [I’m grateful for my] health. If you don't have health, then what do you have? It’s physical health and mental health. People who know me would certainly argue about my mental health. But to be able to work every day and walk and run around and do the fun things that I do, I'm very grateful for that. [I’m also] grateful to live in a part of the world that is sparsely populated. I live west out of the suburbs of Massachusetts, so it's quiet and sleepy, and right outside my doors there's trees and there's acres of lake. But given what COVID is like, feeling that if you were in populated areas, you would be more susceptible to getting the virus.
When you go off to college, there’s an expression: freshman 15. It means you put on 15 pounds of weight. When you ask me what I do to find comfort, I think it’s very normal to go to food. We love food, but we may not eat quite as healthy. I think it's part of the human condition to go to more comfort eating. I certainly am a person that watches what I eat a lot. I find that easier at Meadowbrook because of the salad bar every day and how grateful I was to have that. As a P.E. teacher, I’m very away of calories in and calories out. So I actually started a different workout routine. One of the things I did health and exercise wise was bike riding. I wasn’t a big Netflix fan, but I think a lot of us have gotten into that. I’ve always been a car guy, so way back in September I ordered a Tesla. I just got the car last month. My point is, the psychology of anticipating something in your life, looking forward to something and right now, I cannot begin to tell you how much I enjoy driving it.
Cathy Connolly On Growing Up in Alabama & Giving The Best Advice
as told to Elizabeth F.
I grew up in Alabama, which is about as different from Massachusetts as any state could be. The light is amazing because it’s light so much more than up here, in the winter and in the summer. The spring is spectacular, so starting in early February, the flowers start to come out, the smells are magnificent. There’s lots of magnolia trees. Big trees, lots of fragrances, lots of noises too, like crickets. You kinda forget up here that you don’t have as many bugs and birds as we do in the South. But there’s a smell, a feeling in the air, it’s just different. So I think when I was growing up I had a sense that I would live in Alabama. I certainly had no active thoughts that I would work and own a business, and, hopefully it’s different today, but when I was growing up, girls were kinda, you know, not encouraged to have thoughts of having a career of any sort whatsoever. They were not encouraged to be smart or to speak up in class. So, when I left Alabama and went to college it kinda felt like I got an exit visa or like a secret door out. But I spent so much time, despite my outward indicators being reasonably successful- I spent so much time second guessing myself. And feeling like, “Oh I shouldn’t be here.” You know, “They’re not going to want me.” There’s a saying: “The emperor has no clothes.” And I was always like, “They’re going to figure out that I don’t know what I’m doing here. Why are they putting me in charge of these things?” I wish, and I feel like I’m learning slowly, just to be more comfortable and confident and not waste so much time second guessing myself. Not spend so much time all over the place. So I guess if I could only give one piece of advice, I would say work really hard on loving yourself. Like really accepting and loving yourself completely and wholly because then you have so much, so, so, much to offer the world. And how you can relate to people and your job and I know it sounds corny, but really actively perusing, “How do I care about myself? How do I love myself? How do I accept myself?” Certainly, when I think about what I want for my children, I would want them to have more confidence in the moment and enjoy the moment too. Because once you do that you’re going to be the most extraordinarily generous of heart person in the world. Life reflects back on you what you reflect on the world.
Aleena B. - Going Back to the Basics
Maybe we should have listened earlier, things got out of hand because we all thought “it’s just that, it will pass.” We did not think of how grave this pandemic will be. The casualties are not just the patients who have the virus, but those who have other conditions who are not being seen. Patients who need to go to the hospitals either get turned away or dismiss their conditions.
Filipinos are generally obedient. Everybody is already educated enough to be safe. Some people cannot get accustomed to wearing their masks, but we have people walking around the clinic reminding them. “Please pull up your mask. This is for your safety and our safety.”
I think now, the mask and face shield is already a law. It’s a social and moral responsibility to the people around you. Yesterday I was in the mall, and I saw; there were mask police. I saw a shopper with their face shield up, because he was texting and he couldn’t see, and he was really reminded to put it down.
I work in a mall-based practice. I see general consults and LASIK patients. Initially, when the pandemic struck, we were on lockdown. People were staying home from March into May. Financially, I got worried. “How long will this last? When is this going to stop? When will this improve?” We used to give free meals on busy days, we cut that down, and the employees understood. If you are employed in a company, it’s better to be cut down on benefits, than to be bankrupt.
All that matters now is family and health; they’re priceless. I don’t need nice clothes, because I can go to work in just my scrubs! Quarantine has taught me how to value what’s really important in my life. What you really need is just what’s around you.