When I was a student learning the profession of journalism over two decades ago, I had to report and write stories on deadline that illustrated such topicless themes as “altered states” or “remembrance of things past” or “overcoming obstacles.” These exercises emphasized the necessary sinews that hold stories together as recognizable human experiences.
They also emphasize the lenses reporters must choose when organizing the facts they find.
In the Monitor’s Finding Resilience series, I decided to seek out the ways some people responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a very personal topic, since my neighborhood in Queens was among those experiencing the highest rates of infection in the world at the time, accompanied by fear and a surreal sense of uncertainty.
A year and a half later, however, I didn’t really “find” examples of resilience. Instead, I found a group of students in the Bronx who had already done the work, interviewing people who, unlike me, could not work from home.
They documented on Zoom the stories of Bronx residents who often lived in multigenerational homes, worked in essential jobs in little-protected conditions, and experienced a crisis in a borough with a long-observed dearth of health care facilities.
As each of them told me, they expected these oral histories to be tales of hardship and woe. To their surprise, they said, they found instead resilience, a word their sources used again and again.
And as they struggled, too, learning the skills of interviewing and storytelling on the fly in the midst of the disruptions in their own lives, they found a measure of resilience in themselves as well.
Join me and some of these students next week as the Monitor hosts a free, online conversation on Tuesday, Oct. 5, titled “Overcoming adversity: How the pandemic revealed resilience.” To participate, register for the noon show or the 6 p.m. show.