My mother is my first and best role model. I have six siblings. And growing up mother always told us to “listen to the gut, the gut never lies.” It was Wednesday, March 11, 2020. I was out on a regular errand run when I was suddenly overcome by a strange weakness in my gut. The kind of feeling that leaves your knees trembling with nervousness. The doleful backdrop to this feeling was the coronavirus situation in Wuhan, China, and Lombardy, Italy. The situation was distressing and spiraling at an unbelievable rate.
I listened to my gut that day and without hoarding, decided to buy an extra unit of bleach wipes, paper towels, gloves, masks, bread flour, milk, and so on. We use these items regularly anyway, so if the gut was wrong, these items wouldn’t lay waste. I also checked on our elderly neighbors and offered to assist them with anything they needed.
After nearly seven years out of formal employment, I’d focused on 2020 as my big return to work year. I had two interviews scheduled for March 16, and March 18. Both opportunities were very exciting! One of the interviews was a final round interview and I felt 9/10 confident the outcome would be good. Then in an instant, everything changed. My 9/10 confidence interview was paused, then rescinded a few days later. The second was postponed indefinitely.
What unfolded over the next week or two was mind-numbing; schools, restaurants, worship places, retail shops, recreation facilities, everything was closing down. Chaos and confusion ensued. Everything happened so fast and suddenly that I don’t even know whether I have or ever will process it. I went from two exciting career prospects, back to square one and with a new responsibility of indefinite homeschooling. The world shook and came to a deafening standstill. In my mind I needed to put a label, any label, to what was happening: The Interruption of Everything, Terry McMillan (2005). That was an understatement at best, infantile at worst.
My beloved dad passed away in 2019, and my immediate family (mom, siblings, and in-laws) lives in four different continents -and eight countries! I remember calling my mom and explaining the seriousness of COVID-19, especially to diabetic individuals like her. Fortunately, she took my advice and stocked up on all her necessities, and instantly avoided contact with anyone outside her household.
In early April 2020, we found out a family friend had their cancer treatments postponed as COVID-19 patients became the top priority. That same day, there was a tearful woman on the local news, her dad’s life-saving treatments were postponed due to the pandemic. COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and fatality numbers were growing exponentially. In fact, coronavirus numbers became ubiquitous. Local numbers, US numbers, Wuhan numbers, minority numbers, Italy numbers, Africa, Europe, Asia numbers. Statistics became the order of the day. The news and almost everyone became obsessed with COVID-19 numbers and tracking. And this is how An Anthology of COVID-19 came to exist!
With career re-entry prospects evaporated, home confinement definite, and social isolation looming, I needed to do something. There needed to exist a space for the “voices” represented by the plethora of coronavirus numbers. Those stories needed to be told in a first-person account, however perfect, imperfect, or colloquial. Authentically capturing each person’s experience was the cardinal exigency that catapulted me into action. So I set off to work, building the amazing global team you see on this platform (we have worked with many others along the way). And most of our team members have day jobs in their respective professions. But collectively, we’ve worked tirelessly since April 2020, with the basic tenet of reaching as many fellow humans from all corners of the globe as we possibly can. Because this COVID-19 story is our one story.
Lastly, on behalf of all of us at An Anthology of COVID-19:
We send our heartfelt gratitude to all the frontline healthcare and essential services professionals globally and their families who risked it all from day zero to this day. Thank you to all the teachers whom we might have never truly appreciated until we had to spend a year or so in their shoes. We extend our deepest sympathies to millions of families who have so tragically lost their loved ones; please know we may not know you personally but you’re ever present in our thoughts and prayers.
We recognize these words will never be enough, but we do not know any other way.