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Quarantine Chronicles come to an end
Local photographer and longtime Connect contributor Geoff L. Johnson did some outstanding portrait work on the series.

AS WE near the unofficial end of quarantine here in Georgia, it’s also time to wrap up the Quarantine Chronicles series that we’ve been doing for about three weeks now.

First of all, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give my editor Jim Morekis the credit he deserves for this idea. In a virtual staff meeting April 1 as we were scrambling for content ideas that made sense post-COVID, I mentioned I was in the market for something to do, and Jim suggested a “slice of life” type series. I got started on it the second our call ended.

From there, the series really took off in a way that pleasantly surprised me. My inbox was flooded, and my planner quickly filled up with phone calls (the most action it’s seen in months).

I had friends eagerly suggest people who might be interested, and I even had a complete stranger from Twitter reach out. I had so many stories that I knew there was no way I could run them all in print, so many would have to run exclusively online, — another unexpected COVID pivot that worked out for the best.

We rolled out the first Quarantine Chronicles in our April 8 issue with accounts by Rubi McGrory and Lana “DiCo” DiCostanzo. On May 1, I posted online the last three chronicles of Clinton Edminster, August David Alderman, and Katie Balthrop. With 33 stories total, I averaged more than a story a day.

Each of the 33 people in this series has something important to say. Each is faced with their own challenges and victories, their own thoughts and feelings, and that statement seems pretty obvious (and maybe even a little overly adulatory) until you listen to what they have to say.

At its core, that’s what I love so much about this series: it’s all about listening.

(That’s not to say I don’t listen in other situations, before all my prior interview subjects call me in a frenzy! I swear I’m listening.)

But we’re in a time where listening just does not happen. I see it constantly, from keyboard warriors in the Facebook comments section to people who feel unrepresented by their government.

Everyone is talking, but no one is listening. There’s a strong feeling of misunderstanding that’s happening now.

We cannot be a community unless we listen to, and care about, every single person in it, even—and especially—the ones whose story might make us uncomfortable. We have to listen to people who might not otherwise get the mic, just as much as we listen to people whose voices we hear echoing off the walls.

All of us matter. All of our stories matter. All of us deserve to be heard.

I wish desperately that I could tell every single person’s story, but I’d estimate that each of these articles took me roughly three hours, from interview to transcription to writing to formatting and posting.

That’s a lot of time. So I sought people whose experiences could help us bring the most into focus.

Some of these stories are refreshingly honest in a time when we’re all putting on a brave face. I was just as inspired by Elizabeth Raley’s feelings of sadness and lack of purpose as I was by Warren Arbury’s reminder that positivity is needed now more than ever.

I’m fascinated by the numerous small business owners I spoke to, who have been tasked with choosing between health and revenue. That conversation in particular shifted in meaning, since Gov. Kemp allowed the reopening of certain businesses towards the end of the series.

I was shocked, but also not, at the blundering of government aid, disbursed in a way that’s confusing at best and malicious at worst.

I heard how certain business owners applied for the PPP and the EIDL and the PUA and any other acronym of aid they could find. I learned that many of you still have not received your stimulus check, and I sincerely hope that is not the case still!

I remain inspired by the people who tirelessly fight for our community and its underserved population, like Raine’s COVID care center that’s run by volunteers out of Civvies on Broughton, or Jennifer Graham’s expansion of services that she offers through her nonprofit, Shelter from the Rain.

I’m thankful for the front line medical professionals who spoke with me, both for their time and for their efforts in keeping our community safe. I’m thankful for the people working jobs that are deemed essential, like Bailey Pierce and Jami Calandros, and I’m thankful for the people who chose to stay anonymous to speak most freely about their experiences.

But most of all, I’m thankful to all the people who took the time to share their story with me, and even more thankful to the people who are reading them all. That is all I want: for you to hear these stories and to learn something from them. I learned a lot, and I know you will, too.

This series was called the Quarantine Chronicles because it sought to highlight what life was really like for folks in quarantine. With that period effectively over, it leaves the series in a bit of limbo.

There’s a lot left that we still have to talk about, and I’m not done listening. My email inbox is always open for you. Let’s talk.