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Surry’s PTK Honor Society seeks narratives for COVID-19 Study  

Surry Community College’s Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society (PTK) members will be gathering stories about the ways COVID-19 has impacted local communities in their study, “2020 in Hindsight: How COVID-19 Has Changed Our Lives.”   

The project is part of a national PTK Honors in Action topic, “To the Seventh Generation: Inheritance and Legacy,” which will be examined over the next two years by PTK chapters across the United States.   

Society members are encouraged to consider ways in which the past has impacted the present and how the present will, in turn, impact the future. Within this overarching topic, SCC’s chapter has chosen to focus on how contemporary forms of mass communication influence perceptions of “truth,” particularly regarding pandemics, and how those “truths” are perpetuated to future generations.   

Surry Community College’s Chapter Advisor, Dr. Kathleen D. Fowler said “For example, what part did mass communication play in contemporary American perceptions of the previous pandemic in 1918? Examination of national and local newspapers from that era has revealed some startling similarities between the way Americans responded to the 1918 pandemic and the ways we are responding in 2020,” Fowler said. “Did early lack of information and misunderstandings about the severity and spread of the disease in both instances lead to rising death tolls?”   

Fowler noted that “Just like today, people in 1918 debated the effectiveness of face masks and quarantines. However, the importance of truth becomes even more apparent as Americans in both pandemics lost confidence in public officials who either withheld or mishandled information concerning dangers to the public.”   

In addition to newspaper articles, personal narratives from 1918 also provide a striking similarity to the modern American experience in the grip of pandemic.

Jane Brox‘ essay, “Influenza 1918” could, with only a few minor changes, just as easily describe our own response to COVID-19, according to Fowler.  

“In fact, it was Brox‘ narrative that inspired our chapter to preserve the experiences of our own local community members in the face of challenges presented by the current pandemic,” said Fowler.We have begun collecting personal narratives responding to this question: ‘How has COVID-19 changed your life or the life of someone in your family?’”  

Students expect wide-ranging responses because the virus has influenced almost every aspect of people’s lives including health, finances, education, jobs, politics, and worship. It has also affected families, relationships, recreation, sports, entertainment, socializing, and even dress codes. The ultimate goal is to create and save a digital collection of these narratives for future generations, which will be housed in the SCC Genealogical Library.   

The group is seeking narratives from any community member regardless of age, background, or first language. The narratives may range in size up to 25,000 words, or 45 minutes for audio recordings. The group prefers that the narratives to be submitted digitally.   

The deadline for submission is Nov. 1, 2020. Contact Dr. Kathleen D. Fowler at fowlerk@surry.edu for more information.  

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