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B-N Project Captures Pandemic In Just 6 Words

Staff / WGLT

A new community project aims to take a snapshot of life in McLean County during the coronavirus pandemic.

The "#12MonthsIn6Words” project is a partnership among the McLean County Museum of History, Illinois State University, Illinois Wesleyan University and Heartland Community College. It’s meant to commemorate the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 invading McLean County.

The first case was reported locally on March 19. The first COVID-related death was confirmed just three days later. Since then, more than 14,000 county residents have been infected and at least 173 people have died from the virus.

The project asks community members to reflect on the year in just six words.

Deborah Halperin with Illinois Wesleyan's Action Research Center is one of the project's organizers.

"Pause for a moment and kind of capture just a soundbite, just a little something about what this past year has been for all of us collectively, what we have been through,” Halperin said.

She said some people like to give six individual words--depressed, isolated, family, adaptive, flexible. Other people are using six-word sentences: “Please use your damn mask, people” or “I really miss seeing my grandma.”

“Maybe the brain goes right to a single experience--something that was missed, a birthday that was celebrated differently, a trip that was cancelled. Maybe it goes to a loved one that was sick with COVID or that died of COVID,” Halperin said.

“We’re all moving so fast and every day trying to be adaptive to navigate this new reality as it unfolds. I think part of the exercise is just to stop and look back on all of those experiences.”

She said the effort also will create a time capsule of sorts for future generations curious about this period in McLean County’s history. Submissions will be featured on an Instagram account (@12monthsin6words).

Halperin said there’s an opportunity for it to spur larger community conversations and projects.

“Let’s give all these words to a poet and see if they can write a poem for us, or let’s take all these words and have people read them all aloud in the roundabout in Uptown Normal, or let’s take chalk and write all these words along the Constitution Trail,” she said. “We’re hoping this inspires another level of processing.”

Submissions can be made here. Photos also can be uploaded, in addition to text. The deadline to submit is March 31.

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Dana Vollmer is a reporter with WGLT. Dana previously covered the state Capitol for NPR Illinois and Peoria for WCBU.