A year into pandemic, history’s ripples are still waves in a storm

Mark Gutman/Daily News File Photo Mallory Diefenbach, a reporter for The Daily News is seen working from home in mid-Marc 2020h. Newsroom staff and other personnel at the newspaper have been working remotely for past month as they continue to cover the COVID-19 pandemic in the four-county GLOW Region.

I’ve always been interested in history – mostly the late Bronze Age around the Mediterranean.

But I have a special fascination with the Black Death in Europe and how it impacted human culture and society. How, due to the Black Death workers dieing en masse, landowners started to actually pay their workers thus allowing for greater socio-economic fluidity and the eventual eradication of feudalism. Or, how the disease changed religious beliefs, increased persecution and migration, and women gained a higher status and more rights.

It was a ripple effect, and it was always interesting when I was looking into other areas around that time, such as the witch hunt in Europe, how the Black Plague affected things. I sometimes wondered what it must have been like to live during that time.

Now I have an idea.

I wish I didn’t.

Part of me feels like I made a wish on some sadistic monkey’s paw without even knowing it.

I didn’t even realize how fully serious, not really, the pandemic was until we were told to print out letters stating we were essential employees to give to anyone who would stop us on the street and wear press badges. There was a certain heaviness as I held them in my hand, understanding perhaps for the first time what the weight of my job was.

It’s not just reporting on the situation to allow for people to be informed, but I’m helping build that record for those in the future to look back on.

To study.

To start tracing those ripples.

That even after I’m gone, my name, etched in my byline, will be echoing in local historian’s minds as they squint over newspaper clippings.

It’s sobering.

Now a year since it started, I can’t help but watch the ripples of COVID as they pass by, resonating with me as they do every single other person. They bring stress and exhaustion, and even as I make peace with the human contact provided by the flickering computer screen, I can’t help but secretly wish for something more substantial. It brings more time to practice cooking and opportunities to learn, to understand the complex world around me.

Death, too, comes, but I’m unsure if that is on the waves COVID brings, or something which was already on its way.

Still, I try to not look too closely. Not yet anyway. Not with the waters still muddy and the ripples more like waves’ the storm not gone.

Maybe in the future, when it’s a manageable squall. Then when a future historian asks what it was like to live during such a time, they can have their answer.

Mallory Diefenbach has been a staff writer at The Daily News since 2016.

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