Covid-19: First Person Histories
Though plagues and even pandemics were once common to human experience, it has been over 100 years since the last occurrence of an epidemic comparable in scale to the effects of Covid-19. That epidemic, the flu of 1918, took place in the midst of World War I and carried off millions, but is outside the memory of anyone alive today. Even if it weren't, the technologies, science, and expectations of the 21st century make our experience with Covid-19 a radically different encounter.
How, then, do we make sense of this time, either personally or historically or as it unfolds? With so many aspects of the world in upheaval, how to we find our bearings? And how will our experience of these events be understood by the generations that follow?
The Institute of Psychiatry has begun to compile a list of published first person accounts about life during the pandemic of Covid-19. Culled from a variety of media sources, these accounts reflect the experiences of writers, healthcare personnel, students, restaurant workers, travelers, and host of others around the world. We present them here as a collection of ad hoc oral histories.
As a field of study, oral history offers an invaluable method of gathering, preserving and interpreting the memories of those involved in major historic events. Practitioners note that is both the oldest type of historical inquiry (predating the written word), and one of the most modern. We hope that this collection will both assist current readers in making sense of this period of upheaval, and provide a resource for future scholars seeking to understand this changing time.
If you are familiar with published accounts that you believe should be added to this list, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to recommend the piece.
"Driving Cross-Country: A Coronavirus Diary," The New Yorker, July 19, 2020.
"Together: After months of sheltering at home, 18 cohabitants on what so much togetherness has wrought," New York Times, June 12, 2020
Ron Suskind, "This is Not the Flu: What Doctors Say About Their Fight Against Coronavirus," New York Times, June 12, 2020.
Jacky Flores (as told Lena Felton), "Like many college kids, I moved home when coronavirus hit.
That meant helping my mom farm in the fields," The Lily, June 11, 2020.
Lauren R. Weinstein, "A Story of Mothering-in-Place During the Coronavirus," The New Yorker, June 11, 2020.
Alex Potter, "When Nowhere Feels Safe, Finding Sanctuary on the Drive Home," New York Times, June 10, 2020.
Emily Witt, "Protesting Past Curfew in New York City," The New Yorker, June 4, 2020.
Lauren Francis-Sharma, "I thought the pandemic would give my kids a break from the reality of being black in America. I was wrong," The Lily, June 4, 2020.
Leslie Jamison, "When the World Went Away, We Made a New One," New York Times Magazine, May 24, 2020.
Kieran, "'I do not have the luxury of staying home': 30 days as a domestic worker in New York City," The Lily, May 23, 2020.
Tianna Reid, "My Quarantine: More Time Now?," NYR Daily, May 21, 2020.
Tariro Mzezwa, "It feels like we got the city back to ourselves," New York Times, May 19, 2020.
Caroline Chichirella, "A screaming toddler, no privacy and gratitude: 30 days in the world's longest lockdown," The Lily, May 14, 2020.
Gabriel Redel-Traub, “We Have No Superpowers’: A New Doctor’s Lessons From the Pandemic,” New York Magazine, May 14, 2020.
Luke Northern as told to Anna Silman, “Diary of a Hospital: ‘It Felt Like a Calling,’” New York Magazine, May 12, 2020.
Alex Inkhamheng as told to Anna Silman, “Diary of a Hospital: A Nurse’s Worst Day,” New York Magazine, May 6, 2020.
Ronit Sternberg as told to Anna Silman, “Diary of a Hospital: The Last Face They See Before They Die,” New York Magazine, May 5, 2020.
Cornelia Griggs, “This pandemic is already reshaping our children’s lives,” Washington Post, May 4, 2020.
Shaoli Chaudhuri, “Fear, fevers and reminders of love: 30 days as a medical resident in New York City,” The Lily, May 1 2020.
Dan Herron as told to Anna Silman, “Diary of a Hospital: The Surgical Chief Changing Soiled Bedsheets,” New York Magazine, April 29, 2020.
Katie Wheeler, “Here’s a day in my self-quarantined life, hour-by-hour. We think you might relate,” The Lily, April 26, 2020.
Claudia Garcenot as told to Anna Silman, “Diary of a Hospital: ‘Now I Know the Horror That They’re Living,” New York Magazine, April 24, 2020.
Nellie Hermann, Carina del Valle Schorske, Jonathan Mingle, Reed Lindsay, and Miranda Popkey, et al. “Pandemic Journal, April 13-21,” New York Review of Books Daily, April 21, 2020.
Erik Frampton (as told to Arun Venugopal), “Dispatch from a Coronavirus Morgue Truck Worker: ‘They Write A Check For Your First Day, In Case You Don't Come Back.’” Gothamist, April 16, 2020.
Julia Zakhaleva as told to Anna Silman, “Diary of a Hospital: She Had to Move the Body Herself,” New York Magazine, April 16, 2020.
Jill Bialosky, “For my Mother’s FaceTime Burial, Lipstick and Howling Winds,” New York Times, April 15, 2020.
Helen Ouyang, “I’m an E.R. doctor in New York. None of us will ever be the same,” New York Times Magazine, April 14, 2020.
Melissa L. St. Hilaire, “I was Fired Because of the Coronavirus,” New York Times, April 13, 2020.
"Dispatches from a Pandemic: Twelve writers on life in the time of Covid-19," The New Yorker, April 13, 2020.
Etgar Keret, “Eating Olives at the End of the World,”New York Review of Books Daily, April 12, 2020.
Leslie Pariseau, “Last Man on the Appalachian Trail,”New York Times, April 12, 2020.
“Coronavirus in New York: A paramedic’s diary,”BBC News, April 11, 2020.
Charles L. Schleien, “For 12 Days a Doctor Lived With Burning Lungs,”New York Times, April 9, 2020.
Nathaniel Rich, Christopher Benfey, Mira Kamdar, and Arthur Longworth, “Pandemic Journal, April 6-8,” New York Review of Books Daily, April 8, 2020.
Adam Brenner as told to Anna Silman, “Diary of a Hospital: Losing Hope in the ICU,” New York Magazine, April 8, 2020.
“’An Anvil Sitting on My Chest’: What it’s Like to Have Covid-19,” New York Times, April 6, 2020.
Gary Gwertzmann as told to Anna Silman, “Diary of a Hospital: A Surgeon’s Hope,” New York Magazine, April 6, 2020.
Isaac Chotiner, “Caring for Coronavirus Patients in a Queens ICU,” the New Yorker, April 5, 2020.
Danny Lyon, Andrew McGee, Nicole Rudick, Ali Bhutto, and Jamie Quatro, et al., “Pandemic Journal, March 30-April 5,” New York Review of Books Daily, April 5, 2020.
Eli Saslow, "You're Basically Next to the Nuclear Reactor," Washington Post, April 5, 2020.
Dhruv Kullar, "'Adrenaline, Duty, and Fear': New York Hospital Taking on the Coronavirus," The New Yorker, April 3, 2020.
Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, "Inside a two-week quarantine in Singapore,"Washington Post, April 3,
Clayton Dalton, “A Boston Hospital Nears its Limits,” the New Yorker, April 2, 2020.
Ariane Chang, “’Corona Maman’: A Paris Clinic’s First Covd-19 Delivery,” New York Review of Books Daily, April 2, 2020.
Jen Carlson, "One New Yorker Details His Coronavirus Diagnosis and Recovery," Gothamist, April 2, 2020.
Peter Shearer as told to Anna Silman, “Diary of a Hospital: A Truck Full of Bodies,” New York Magazine, April 2, 2020.
Patrick Schnell as told to Anna Silman, “Diary of a Hospital: The Doctor Holding the Camera,” New York Magazine, April 1, 2020.
Exposed. Afraid. Determined. In their own words, workers across the country who have no choice but to confront the pandemic describe life in a changed world," New York Times Magazine, April 1, 2020.
"We Are The Glue: Stories From Essential Workers," Death, Sex, & Money, April 1, 2020.
Claudia Garcenot as told to Anna Silman, “Diary of a Hospital: A Head Nurse’s Burden,” New York Magazine, March 30, 2020.
Peter Hessler, "Life on Lockdown," The New Yorker, March 30, 2020, 26-37.
Adam Gopnik & Philip Montgomery, "Abundance of Caution," New Yorker, March 30, 2020, 38-53.
Emily Raboteau, "A Change in Lesson Plans: Homeschooling in a Pandemic," New York Review of Books Daily, March 30, 2020.
Heidi Julavits, "Travel In a Plague Year," The New York Times Magazine, March 29, 2020, 50-71.
Amelia Nierenberg, “My Dad Has Coronavirus. I Don’t Know if I Should Say Goodbye,” New York Times, March 26, 2020.
"'We need help to make it,''The coronavirus's toll on jobs, isolation and end-of-life choices" Washington Post, March 26, 2020.
Leslie Jamison, "Since I Became Symptomatic,"New York Review of Books, March 26, 2020
Lydia Chen, “62 Days of Lockdown in Wuhan, China: Tragedy, Heroism, and Real Life Stories at Ground Zero of Coronavirus Pandemic,” Medium.com, March 25, 2020.
Shaoli Chaudhuri, “Think you’re prepared for the coronavirus? Think again.” Washington Post, March 24, 2020.
Craig Spencer, "What it's like being a New York ER doctor during this pandemic," Washington Post, March 20, 2020.
"It's a waking nightmar'': Readers share tales of testing, layoffs and other challenges," Washington Post, March 19, 2020
Samuel G. Freedman, "In Miami Beach, the palpable sensation of an unfolding tragedy," Washington Post, March 20, 2020.
Michael Greenberg, Raquel Salas Rivera, Aida Alami, Rahmane Idrissa, and Verlyn Klinkenborg, et al. "Pandemic Journal, March 23-29," New York Review of Books Daily
Cheryl Benard, "Landing at Dulles Airport, I encountered a case study in how to spread a pandemic," Washington Post, March 15, 2020.
Monica Maggioni, "In Italy, we live in silence, die in silence $mda and wait," Washington Post, March 13, 2020.
Antonia Williams-Annunziata, "The surreal reality of life in shuttered Rome during Italy's lockdown," Washington Post, March 12, 2020.
Siri Hustvedt, "I think of the sirens as New York's heartbreaking music," Financial Times Magazine, April 25/26, 2020.
Alex Maksik, "My Father's Voice from Paris," The New Yorker, April 25, 2020.
David Hirsch (as told to C.J. Chivers), "I Was Ready to Help Fight the Pandemic. Then I Got Sick Myself," New York Times, April 24, 2020.
Janet Reitman, "'Something Is Going to Explode': When Coronavirus Strikes a Prison," New York Times Magazine, April 18, 2020.
David Gonzalez & Sinna Nasseri, "'Patients Have Panic in Their Eyes': Voices from a Covid-19 Unit," New York Times, April 29, 2020.