Joe Burns mug

Joe Burns

In last week’s Enterprise, Managing Editor Leenna Ellis wrote an interesting and timely article about how the 1918 Spanish flu affected Washington County. A primary source for Ellis’ article was the diary of Fort Calhoun resident Daisy Slader. Her 1918 journal includes entries related to Clement Mortensen who became ill soon after his enlistment in the Army and his death on October 4, 1918. Personal diaries, journals and accounts by everyday people as well as prominent movers and shakers are the stuff of history. They make history come alive.

I personally have a large collection of letters written to and from my parents and family members before and during World War II that not only provide a rich family history, but also enrich my understanding of American history and culture during that historical era. 

Similarly, we are living in what could be the first significant historical epoch of the 21st century. As a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, our culture and our lives will never quite be the same again. I have seen posts of lesson plans encouraging teachers and parents to have kids of all ages write about or draw pictures of their day to day lives. That sounds like a great idea to me. We are living history and we should document it.

My job as a photojournalist has certainly changed dramatically during the past six weeks.  All of my usual spring beats are gone. I empathize with our students — particularly seniors who are missing out on spring sports, concerts and drama productions, proms and graduation events and activities.  

We are all dealing with the hardships of this crisis in our own way and at our own pace. For too long our nation was in denial that the virus could bring down our economy and drastically impact our day to day lives. Well it can and it has.  

Certainly there is a lot of anger, hostility, finger pointing and looking for something or someone to blame. For the most part this is wasted energy. There is sadness and depression particularly for those who have or are fearful of losing loved ones. Certainly there is anxiety about jobs, income and the necessities of life. 

The pandemic is one gigantic cataclysmic storm, but we are not all in the same boat. Hopefully none of us are on cruise liners. We all are paddling our own canoes and kayaks and doing our best to stay afloat.

As a community journalist, I see my job as documenting how we are all navigating, and how well we are riding the waves and maybe even surfing. I particularly want to help tell the stories of those volunteers, first responders, essential workers and others who are throwing out life preservers, and showing up when our boats spring a leak. 

To all who are sailing in uncharted waters I wish you, “Fair winds and following seas.”

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