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Community Experience: COVID-19

Humanity has witnessed the best and the worst of times. Every moment of our lives becomes history. Some moments, hours, and days are more momentous than others. If we stop and look around, sometimes we even realize that we’re living through major historical events.
It is then that we start recording.
March 11, 2020. This photo, shared by a community member, shows bare shelves in the grocery store.
March 11, 2020. This photo, shared by a community member, shows bare shelves in the grocery store.

Since December 2019, the news had been reporting on a new disease quickly spreading in China; and authorities there were unable to manage it. On March 10, 2020, the first case of COVID-19 appeared in the United States. 

101 years after the worst flu pandemic (often called the “Spanish flu”) circled the globe, another influenza-type virus began infecting citizens around the world.

We are living through and experiencing an historic event that researchers will be studying for years into the future.

For this reason, the Brick Store Museum began asking community members to share their thoughts about COVID-19 in April 2020.

Now, almost a year later, let’s explore these reactions, and compare them to how we feel and understand today.

The experiences and opinions expressed below reflect the personal reactions of our community. They do not necessarily reflect those of the Museum.

At the end of this Community Diary, you will find a link to enter your own experiences, if you have not already.

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When did you first hear about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)? Were you concerned at the time? (scroll to right)

When did you start to feel worried? Did you feel confident we could contain the spread? (Click arrow to scroll)

Write a description of your thoughts as people began to test positive in Maine; or in regions near where your family members live. (Click arrow to scroll)

graph from questionnaire
graph for news

Is there a person, in a leadership role, that you look to for information and decisions at a time like this?

  • “No, no one.”
  • “Not really. I don’t particularly trust the President to have accurate information, so usually I just look for information.”
  • “My God, my pastor, Gavin Newsom.”
  • “Lots of online and media sources.”
  • “Yes, I would be looking to the president but I cannot believe a single thing he says at this point.”
  • “I listen to the people that have been through things like this before, and know the science. While others probably have the best intentions, no one else really knows what is happening; it’s unmapped terrain for all of us.”
  • “Dr. Shah.”

"I wonder how long spirits will stay bright, should this drag on for months, and finances become critically strained."

What was the first thing you noticed in our community when concerns over the virus began? What changes have you observed? How do you feel about these changes?

  • “Run on toilet paper, then food. I’ve been staying home watching my grandchildren since the schools closed. I don’t feel safe going out.”
  • “The first thing I noticed was the food and item hoarding that started happening. I saw people start to stand further away from each other. I think the standing further away from each other makes sense, but the food hoarding does not.”
  • “People have become very kind and supportive of one another. The air has become much cleaner, due to far less cars on the road. Also the sounds of nature can be heard more clearly without noise pollution from cars, planes and trains. People are respectful about social distancing while remaining friendly and even chatty. The grocery stores are mobbed, though the shelves are sometimes bare. People seem to be anxious, yet taking time to relax and do more things outside, online, and personally, like art and other creative pursuits. I wonder how long spirits will stay bright, should this drag on for months, and finances become critically strained.”
  • “Those of us volunteering in social welfare organizations are spending much time thinking how to maintain/expand these services, especially to isolated seniors and others in need.”
  • “People seemed afraid of each other in a very mean spirited way. Thank goodness people have changed their attitudes to more of a ‘we’re all in this together.'”
  • “I’ve noticed good and bad. Bad is obviously those people panic buying and stockpiling materials that other people need too; caring is sharing, and many aren’t doing much good for their neighbors right now by hoarding goods. It won’t do you any good to have a million disinfecting wipes if your neighbor doesn’t, gets the virus because they couldn’t clean their door handle, and then coughs on the sidewalk you share and you get the virus too. We’ve got to be aware of that. But there have been good deeds, too, which again really enforce the notion that we’re all in this together.”
  • “People being especially nasty to those with out of state plates, but that’s Kennebunk for you. I think people need to live their own lives and stop policing others. While there are so many memes and social media hashtags for #kindess #justbekind, people are downright nasty, and with no lives to lead, that nastiness comes out ten fold.”

"There's nothing much to do but... be at home with yourself, literally and figuratively."

How has your own life been affected?

What's Changed?

For You
  • “I am definitely focused on how to survive financially going forward. We may try to work for Amazon until we can resume our business. I am researching sources of financial assistance. I am using hand sanitizer and cleaning everything. We are spending NO money except on necessities. I am actively working on not becoming fearful and depressed, and helping my husband and family to do the same. I stopped drinking ANY wine. I am praying, hoping and waiting.”
  • “With all communications outside the home limited to electronic means misunderstandings are created more easily and less easily solved.”
  • “I am definitely more aware of my actions and interactions now, and also those of others. Everything takes a bit of planning and design now, more effort, even if it’s just going to the market or getting your pet to the vet.”
  • “I barely leave the house, only to grocery shop or pick up prescriptions (thank goodness for the drive through window and curbside pickup). I spend more time doing sedentary tasks, despite taking a daily walk. When your commute is only steps, it changes everything.”

"not knowing how long this will last, not getting the right information, or any information."

What has _______ the most about COVID-19?

Surprised you
  • “How Unready we were. We’re sitting ducks.”
  • “How quickly Maine responded and how strongly. I am glad that we have responded this way, but I’m curious to see how things play out over the next couple of weeks as we learn more about this virus and how it spreads.”
  • “People are beginning to look at life in a new way, focusing on friends, family, creativity, helping each other. We know we are all in this together, locally, as a nation, and worldwide, which creates a human connection and compassion for all.”
  • “Nothing really so far; perhaps too early to tell.”
  • “The absolute need for a good president is not a joke. It is not okay to have someone with no experience leading millions of people.”
  • “The most surprising thing to me has been that the USA couldn’t stop it from affecting all of us, every corner of the country, when there was plenty of warning. I just can’t believe this is what happened to us.”
  • “How long the quarantine is lasting.”

Looking Back and Ahead

What Do You Say to Those Who are Struggling?

I really admire the doctors, nurses, law enforcement and other essential workers for their hard work and bravery during this uncertain time.

“I’ve been thinking of one of my favorite literary exchanges during this time, and I hope it helps others too. From J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: ‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo. ‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.'”

“Check in with your loved ones, use the technology that we have available to skype/facetime with people. Take this time to learn something new, to do something that you’ve always meant to do but never had the time for. Keep yourself busy, and be conscious of your media consumption (including social media). Like Mr. Rodgers says, look for the helpers.”

“Remember that no matter what the circumstances, God is there for you. God will protect you. He is able to provide and sustain you. In times of peril, when we have nowhere to turn, turn to God. You will find the peace that passes all understanding.”

“This too shall pass. and “If you don’t have anything good to say, say nothing at all.” BUY LOCAL!!! If we want to see thriving communities we need to stop ordering things online and order from our local stores! We need to shop local with every dime we can in order to overcome this pandemic financially speaking.”

“We’re all in this together, let’s succeed together as best we can. It’s not every man for himself, it’s every man for every man. It’s got to be, or at some point every man will be consumed by that exponential curve.”

“Stay the course. This too will pass. Do what you can to protect yourself and don’t worry about others – you can’t control them but you can control your own actions and emotions.”

Add your voice to the story! One year later, we have a new survey: “COVID-19: One Year Later.” Share your experiences in this past year. Help us learn for the future! Click the button below to start.