At the beginning of April 2020, we asked New Brunswickers to participate in our pandemic stories contest, “Calling all New Brunswickers.” A total of 77 participants shared with us personal first-hand accounts, recording their experiences during Covid-19. Archival staff at the New Brunswick Museum Archives and Research Library eagerly read entries that captured a multitude of viewpoints of the pandemic. Submissions offered honest, light, and heart-warming stories, as well as emotional and poignant reads.
Felicity Osepchook, the Archives and Research Library’s curator and manager, expressed that not only was she impressed by the number of entries, but the variety of demographics represented by the submissions. From 6 to 86, small children, high school students, middle aged adults and seniors shared their stories. This great range of participants sent entries in multiple forms of media, including drawings, photographs, handwritten letters, cartoons, and even a hand painted trivet.
Each of these entries are valuable today and for future generations. They offer a window into the lives of New Brunswickers, a subjective and unique glimpse of everyday life across the province. More intimate than other documents that will encapsulate the history of Covid-19, these entries have the power to bring our communities closer by inspiring empathy and by helping foster ideas on how to cope during challenging and unprecedented circumstances.
Based on the tone of submissions, it could be said that New Brunswicker’s are coping well with the current new normal. We invite you to read the extracts below from individuals who have shared their stories about the activities, events, and thoughts they experienced during this pandemic.
We thank all participants who submitted an entry and offer a heartfelt congratulations to our draw winner, Jill Davis LeBlanc.
Although our contest is over, the New Brunswick Museum Archives continue to accept pandemic stories to be preserved for future generations. If you would like to share your experiences during the pandemic with archival staff, please send your stories to NBM Archives, 277 Douglas Ave. Saint John, NB E2K 1E5 or Archives@nbm-mnb.ca.
We continue to look forward to hearing from you!
Pandemic stories shared by New Brunswickers
Received April 26, 2020
“Everyone thinks that their day to day life will always be the same. They will hang out with their friends, they’ll wake up having to go to school, and they will drive to their sports in the evening. Little did everyone know, they took these three basic freedoms for granted. This past month in quarantine, people all around the world have been experiencing something they thought was unimaginable: quarantine. Now that these activities have been ripped away, they realized that they should have cherished every second of each day.
As you can tell, quarantine has shut down everyone’s life. Every single person is affected by this, whether old or young, tall or short, cultured or barbarian, or living on one side of the world or the other. It is ironic how many people proclaimed they would have loved it if school, sports, and friends could freeze in place so they could relax but, when they began to live this “paradise” they once painted in their minds, it all swapped. I think this is a great lesson for the whole world: never take anything for granted, even when you wish it away, because one day you may no longer have it.”
Received April 27, 2020
“My wife and I are both retired, and me being the healthier of the two of us, I am the one that goes out for our supplies.
My biggest concern was in bringing home the virus to my wife, and I might not even know that I have it. If I got sick with the virus, then there would be no one to look after her. I understand the concerns that are going on with all the seniors in the long care homes and how it can spread very quickly, but there was no mentioned of the seniors that are living in their own homes. We are members of the silent majority, if you do not make any noise, then it seems that no one cares.”
Received April 28, 2020
“As we tried to adjust to this “new normal”, we had no idea that two weeks later, it would be announced that schools would be closed for the remainder of the year. That was a hard pill to swallow, but we understood why it was necessary. I tried to busy myself by cleaning and organizing my house. That is when I found many old postcards I had collected from various trips throughout my life. The idea came to me one day while I was out walking on Williamstown Road with my border collie dog Sadie. Why not send postcards to my students to stay in touch with them?And thus, began my postcard project. I ended up sending one to every high school student at École Étoile de l’Acadie, in Rogersville. Many weeks later, as we settled into the routine of online teaching, it was confirmed that students would finally be allowed to return to school to gather their personal belongings. Watching small clumps of teenagers clean out their lockers, many of whom were wearing gloves and masks, made me feel sad. This normally would happen at the end of June with a much more jovial atmosphere, summer vacation upon us.”
Photo: Submitted by Allison Alcorn – Postcard Project
Received April 30, 2020
“One of the biggest impacts I’ve gone through was that my mother Genevieve Read who is a nurse was moved from burns and plastics to the presumptive Coronavirus floor. This changed our lives. My mother has a compromised immune system due to her asthma. Hearing this news was devastating knowing that now we were all at severe risk. Not only that put us at risk though, my father Adam Read is a fire fighter meaning he is out in the community everyday. I was terrified everyday watching them walk out the doors for work.
Most families had relatives in New Brunswick that they got to visit after the bubble family rule was made. We sadly didn’t get to see any relatives due to the fact that all of our family lives in Nova Scotia. We’re worried about them daily and even two members of my family caught it from working in a nursing home. Knowing that if they catch it we can’t support them is a terrible image in our heads during this pandemic.”
Received May 1, 2020
“Instead of teaching in a student-filled classroom, I now engage in what we call “Emergency Response Teaching.
While necessary to maintain physical distances, I have mixed feelings about this approach. In some ways, it is very convenient. I can instruct many classes at once in a manner that would be impossible in a traditional setting. I also can explain concepts, answer questions, and hand-out assignments to all three classes simultaneously; however, that same convenience comes at a steep cost. Many students cannot engage in distance learning for socioeconomic or geographic reasons. Consequently, accessibility has become a serious issue.”
Received May 4, 2020
“There is always an everyday worry that will never leave me be. A constant fear that the virus could be brought into my home and horribly affect the two high risks that live there; my parents.
Both of my parents are at a high risk of contracting the virus and having a terrible outcome with it. One is a survivor of a deadly disease and has had multiple issues with their health after beating it. The frightening part is that they are an essential hospital worker. I hold a very high respect for all of my friends, family and everyone else who is an essential worker during this terrible time. My heart goes out to all of them as they are doing a phenomenal job.”
Michael & Patricia Oliver,
Received May 5, 2020
“Our lives have been relatively little changed by the quarantine. We have always been introverted “home bodies,” and we have not suffered any loss of income because of the quarantine, living as we do on pensions. We realize, of course, that we are fortunate in both of these regards. We do regret the closure of the Public Library very much, as well as some of the city’s businesses. And having to follow arrows on the floor in the places that are open feels like being prodded. The severely reduced bus service has also been a minor irritation. Our greatest social disappointment has been the closure of the Imperial Theatre, and the closure of some restaurants where we have gone to celebrate a birthday or an anniversary.”
Received May 6, 2020
“Not being at school is definitely something I would never imagine to happen. I can say it is much easier to learn in a classroom setting than it is on a computer. While being at home, it is much easier to get distracted while trying to focus on what you are learning than it would be at school. We have scheduled Microsoft Teams meetings where the students join a call with the teacher and they discuss the work we have for the week. We submit our assignments on the website and they give us feedback on what we might need to work on. Although I would rather be in a real classroom, having it online gives me more time to focus on different things after I am finished my studies, rather than having a strict schedule and spending the entire day at school.”
Received May 6, 2020
“I’ve been a widow for fifteen years. Widows know all about social isolation and must adapt to it in order to keep sanity, a balanced life and a sense of humour. I’ve done that, and my days in pandemic isolation don’t unfold much differently than they did before we were ordered to ‘shelter-in-place’, keep two meters away from others when in the grocery store, and wear a mask, especially if you have or are suspected to have a communicable disease.
Another area where I am especially fortunate is living in my husband’s family home, a rambling farm house now over 150 years old. There is so much beauty here…and beauty feeds the soul and provides sustenance in this time of social isolation, with its reminders of many COVID19 cases and so many deaths and the anguish of those whose jobs are lost, their incomes evaporated, their futures uncertain.
These are not my worries, and knowing that fact brings on an overwhelming feeling of blessedness that borders on guilt. How did I get so lucky? I don’t know, but I’m profoundly grateful.”
Photo: Submitted by Anne Baker – Window in husband’s family home
Received May 17, 2020
“The self-isolation order comes. Excited to work on my reno. Declutter. Work out. Write my screenplay. Instead online board meetings to address the Covid-19 fallout. A myriad of trip cancellation insurance forms.
Then I remember a man I couldn’t quite forget. The totally impractical and likely unsuitable ‘Boat Man’ whom I met while barging with friends in southern France last September. I guess one could say we hit it off. It ended before it started on an undercurrent of attraction.
A week into isolation I’m sending ‘Boat Man’ a FB message asking him how he’s doing in self-isolation. I don’t know where he is but figure he is in the same boat as the rest of us. Pardon the pun. Turns out he’s still on the boat where I last saw him. And his lock-down makes our situation look like a picnic.
We pick up quite naturally where we left off 5 months earlier. We move to video. Now we just stare at each other and smile incessantly. Bonding over our disdain for organized religion, our wine snobbery, and a scotch before bedtime. Discovering that we are kindred spirits. We’re in love and deliriously happy. What pandemic?
We decide to start living together now. Despite the 5-hour time difference we go to bed together and wake up together – on video – and that’s our plan until one of us can get on a plane. We thank the universe every day for the internet.
My experience? I found love during the pandemic. The real deal. And Boat Man? His name is Peter.”
Received May 27, 2020
“Hi I am Anna O’Donnell. I am from Fredericton, NB and I am 9 years old. My experience during Covid-19 may be different than yours but its possible they are the same too! Lot’s of people are getting negative about Covid-19 but I believe Covid-19 is no excuse to be negative. For other people it is helping them have better lifestyles, to eat healthier also most people like me are getting a lot more exercise.
Well look at all the other good things Covid-19 has brough us, like finding new ways to socialize or interact with other people also practicing better hygiene, like washing our hands and you don’t need to touch everything at the store. I believe Covid-19 is helping us all humans, helping us become stronger. Everybody stay positive and everything will be ok!”
Received June 9, 2020
“Covid 19 is a virus that spreads quickly so we need to socially distance. I feel happy and sad because I learned new things but I miss my friends and family. I trained my cat Lessa to do an obstacle course all by myself. I did the obstacle course with treats and she followed me through it. I felt happy because my cat felt like a best friend.”
Received June 17, 2020
“We’ve been advised to stay away from each other: Social Distancing is the phrase that saves. There is a theory called “Six degrees of separation”, which shows that within six steps we can see how one person on the planet is connected to any other human being. My theory is that there is only one step. I say this because we all breathe the same air, which means every time we inhale and exhale, our particles mingle with everyone else’s.
So, dear Future-Folks; the next time you feel scared, confused, sad, or alone, please remember: you are a part of one circular world. We have one past, one present, one future. One is a round, connected shape. One number called Zero. The “O” which (scientifically) represents Oxygen. The circle of life, and you are a part of it. You are important. You matter. We are all in this together. Before, during, and after this pandemic, we are One. The fact that you are here reading this today, means not only did we survive: We won.”
Received June 26, 2020
“Greetings from Moncton, NB, Canada. It is the year 2020, the year of so many worldly changes, the year of the Coronavirus pandemic outbreaks, the year where everything changes.
On December 31, 2019, China announced the discovery of a “Pneumonia of unknown origin” and as of today writing this letter, it is 6mths into this epidemic.
Everything and everyone is in a “state of emergency.” We are all learning the new “Holy Trinity” for slowing down the spread of Covid-19: WASH YOUR HANDS. SOCIAL DISTANCE 6ft APART, WEAR A MASK.
Living in Moncton, N.B during the Covid-19 pandemic has taught me many valuable life lessons that I would like to share with you.
I learned that basic family traditions are especially important and are at the core of our well-being and health. Teaching the value of doing household chores, cooking together, reading bedtime stories, creating crafts and taking family walks are good…..very very good. We have the time on our side to make time for our families, maybe the first time in history. We can cherish every golden opportunity. Tomorrow is not promised to anyone. Doing things that make you happy, joyful, and healthy-mentally, physically, and spiritually are essential to our selfcare while in isolation.
Kindness and gratitude are everything. Like you, I yearn for human connection. Staying close while physically distancing has taught me to be more kind, present and grateful. Taking the time to phone call, send text messages, mail cards and video chat with all my loved ones have become a top priority to me. They matter very much!”
Photo: Submitted by Kim Courtney – Message of hope
More to come……….