The 1918 Spanish Flu killed an estimated 50 to 100 million people in 15 months, according to the most widely cited analysis. There were living historians during that time. They wrote letters and journals that we have access to today.
We don’t yet have statistics for the duration and the loss of life during 2020’s Covid-19 pandemic. I invite you to become a living historian of your time.
In November of 1918, Hildreth Heiney, an Indianapolis schoolteacher, wrote about the sudden appearance of face masks in response to the Spanish flu pandemic. “yes, I wore one, and so did everybody else,” she wrote cheerfully to her deployed fiancé. “There were all kinds—large and small—thick and thin, some embroidered and one cat-stitched around the edge.” Hildreth Heiney seemed to take the order to wear masks in public in Indiana in stride. “O, this is a great old world!” she went on. “And one should surely have a sense of humor.”
Other letters of the time depicted the grim reality being caught in a crux between the pandemic and World War I. Alton Miller corresponded with his family after being inducted into the army. He writes of getting the flu but trying to stay out of the hospital where “They say you are lucky if you get out alive once you get in.” In a heartbreaking development, his family received letters urging them to visit their son in the hospital, followed by condolence letters after his death.
It was a time where correspondence flew back and forth across the ocean as our troops were encouraged to write. Stationery and envelopes were provided at no cost and mailed for free. Some have liked the amount of correspondence to today’s texting.
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
— Romans 8:31
We study history for inspiration and knowledge, among other reasons, to understand cultural differences, which enlighten our understanding. We are blessed with historical fiction authors among our midst. They immerse themselves in the history of their chosen times and weave stories that inform and engage readers.
Daniel Defoe’s gripping “Journal of the Plague Year” accounts for one man’s experiences of the year 1665, in which the bubonic plague struck London. And, World War II gave us Anne Frank’s Diaries, the poignant shelter-in-place narrative that has struck many hearts.
Your journal could illuminate and inform a future generation. You were made for a time such as this!
During Coronavirus, we are living in history daily. Historians and professors across the country are calling for everyone, and especially writers, to create their own historical record. Surely, we are up to the call. Write your own historical record on your life and observations from within the pandemic.
Twelve Suggestions for your journaling
- How do you fit in the world, and what impact does the pandemic have on you?
- Describe your demographics. You could include your age, ethnicity, gender, marital status, income, education, and employment. Does the virus impact one or more of these areas specifically to you?
- What do you think of the virus’ impact on your public and personal spheres?
- Is your level of trust and/or anxiety rising or falling with today’s headline news?
- What is occurring with your relationships? Write about your family and friends, neighbors, and colleagues. How are you connecting with these relationships?
- What has improved in your daily life?
- What is declining or deteriorating in your daily life?
- How much did you write today? What are you writing?
- How much did you read today? What are you reading?
- Is your relationship with God improving? Or do you feel distant from God?
- What Bible verse had an impact on you today?
- What did you learn today?
Choose a medium that ensures your journal’s longevity. Here are some journaling apps where you can document your life during this historical time. Try Day One at https://dayoneapp.com/, Penzu at https://penzu.com/, or Journey at https://journey.cloud/.
Life’s a journey we can share with the written word. Get started today.
“The secret to getting ahead is getting started.”
— Mark Twain
“Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.”
— Helen Keller
Allyson West Lewis is an award-winning author specializing in speculative fiction. After an extensive career as a senior Wall Street executive, she’s written a fantasy novel, a dystopian science fiction book and has published short stories in literary magazines and anthologies. She adores her husband, three grown sons and grandchildren. Allyson writes from North Georgia with a Golden Retriever and one irascible Airedale Terrier sprawled at her feet.