Jennifer A. Fitch
WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Judy Lininger would like more information about her grandfather, a farmer who died in the 1918 flu pandemic.
She knows little about Harry Kramer Layman, who died when his father was 4 years old. The boy’s mother raised him alone.
When Lininger learned that the Waynesboro Historical Society was seeking journals to document the COVID-19 pandemic, Lininger wanted to contribute his current writings.
“I keep thinking that one of my ancestors, someone from my lineage, will go to the historical society and read my story,” Lininger said.
In March 2020, Waynesboro Historical Society supporters Ginny Ingels and Dorothy Kugler began talking about how little documentation was available for the 1918 pandemic. They wanted to make sure future generations had more information about the current pandemic.
They appealed for journals that could be bound and stored in the historical society library. Six people kept a regular diary for the project.
“All of these people have kept a diary before, except me,” Ingels said.
Ingels created monthly entries with newspaper clippings, while the others make daily entries with personal reflections. Attendees said it was interesting to look back at the Spring 2020 entries to see how the pandemic took hold.
“It’s like we’re learning as we go, even the medical staff,” Ingels said.
Kugler said she wanted to focus on how people are feeling during the COVID-19 pandemic. She remembers being vaccinated against smallpox and poliomyelitis as a child, but does not remember the fear adults felt about these diseases.
Kugler thinks of those in hospital, as well as those who have lost or are separated from loved ones.
“We hear about these things, but we can’t see them or reach these people,” she said.
For Lininger, many aspects of his life in 2020 and 2021 differ from years past.
“I never thought I would see the day when churches were closed and we couldn’t go to church, and we would wear masks, even in a bank lobby,” he said. she said, adding that she now watches services from her church. online and communicates herself in the living room.
Joy Brown of Waynesboro watches Mass on television and receives communion from a priest who does home visitation. She was careful to take her precautions, especially because she underwent two surgeries during the pandemic.
“It has affected everyone’s life in many ways, but there are people who are still so reckless,” she said.
Brown said she was working with Ingels to give overall impressions of the pandemic for the journaling project, rather than a daily diary.
Robert Cramer’s parents encouraged him to keep a diary. He started doing it regularly when his father died.
“I have a lot,” he said. “I started in 1980.”
Cramer, a resident of Waynesboro since 1976, hopes people reading pandemic-era journals over the next few decades will get a glimpse of how we survived.
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Reggie Hefner, of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, calls himself a “curator of a family museum,” based on his decades-old journal boxes. He was happy to contribute to his daily thoughts on the pandemic.
Hefner underwent open-heart surgery in 2020 and didn’t think he would recover.
As he recounted his journey, he thought, “At least someone in the future will know what I did in the last years of my life.
Hefner was unable to receive visitors at the hospital due to pandemic restrictions. Medical professionals expressed concern about his weakened immune system, his recovery from surgery and his long-term chances, but he was doing well a year later.
When Hefner looks back on his diary of the early months of the pandemic, he is deeply frustrated that government leaders downplayed the severity and failed to wear masks.
“We know now that they are trivializing the seriousness of public health,” he said, adding that at the start of 2021 he was surprised that some people still thought the coronavirus was a hoax.
Lininger, who has six adult children, missed a Christmas reunion with her family in 2020, but was excited to get her shot in February and reconnect with them.
“All of this while staying at home and not seeing people, when you see family and friends it’s all the more enjoyable,” she said.
Lininger sometimes wonders if anyone will be reading his diary in 100 years. She worries her daily routine might seem boring to some, but she enjoyed documenting even more mundane steps, like ordering groceries online for the first time.
Ingels said those who chronicle have gone through less positive milestones, such as getting COVID-19 or losing a job.
She misses getting together with friends, including those who attend historical society events.
“We are corresponding and the board is meeting virtually, but it’s not the same thing,” she said.
Kugler thinks she’s adjusted to some of the COVID-19-related changes in her lifestyle.
“I basically isolated myself from everyone because I don’t want to wear it to anyone else,” she said. “I’ve adapted to the fact that if I want to feel good, I have to stay home.”
She expressed her gratitude to the people who contribute to the journals.
“We appreciate the time people have taken and their insights,” she said.
This article was adapted from the summer issue of At Home Places, a Herald-Mail Media publication.