When my husband and I walked the battlefields of Gettysburg, PA a few years ago, I kept wondering what it had been like for the town’s residents to live there during the horror of the Civil War.
Thus, I bought the “Diary of a Lady,” a thin pamphlet that contained the journal writings of Sarah M. Broadhead, teacher, diarist, and resident. The introduction read:
“The following pages were begun for no other purpose and with no other thought than to aid in whiling away time filled up with anxiety, apprehension, and danger; and after the danger had passed away, the practice of noting down the occurrences of each day was continued until disease incapacitated the hand for writing. They are now printed [not published] for distribution among the kindred and nearest friends of the writer, in answer to the question, often put,–“Where were you, and what did you do during the battle?”
The brutal battle of Gettysburg was fought during the first three days of July 1863. Then, on July 13, Broadhead wrote:
“This day has passed much as yesterday and the day before.”
When she wrote that, you know she had to be thinking, I have nothing new to write. Yet now, looking back, the redundancy WAS the experience, just as it has been for many during these days of the Covid-19 lockdown.
As a writer, I know how true it is that the putting down of one’s thoughts onto paper relieves pressure from inside the head, especially when the words are produced for a diary alone. The activity frees up the space for new thoughts, new ideas, and fresh perspectives. And it records the undeniable facts of history that is the human experience.
Surrounding me now is both shouting and silence. There is shouting on the streets and in the media, social and televised. There is silence on the roadways and sky ways and in stadiums and other public spaces. History will record these things. But who will record your truths?