She Found 'Light' In Interviewing Neighbors About Life During Lockdown Jinny Savolainen was looking for a sense of purpose when the pandemic hit Leverett, Mass. "Just when things seemed so dark, I found some light in the words of the people all around me," she said.
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She Found 'Light' In Interviewing Neighbors About Life During Lockdown

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She Found 'Light' In Interviewing Neighbors About Life During Lockdown

She Found 'Light' In Interviewing Neighbors About Life During Lockdown

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NOEL KING, HOST:

Today on StoryCorps, something a little different.

JINNY SAVOLAINEN: I'm Jinny Savolainen. And I've been interviewing my neighbors here in Leverett, Mass.

KING: Jinny's small town locked down because of the pandemic. And she wanted to do something meaningful with her time. She lost her daughter in 2019. And then, during the pandemic, she lost her job. So she decided to do these interviews. And we're going to hear some of her recordings now.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SAVOLAINEN: One of the people I spoke with was Betsy Neisner.

BETSY NEISNER: Fear, I don't do fear.

SAVOLAINEN: (Laughter).

NEISNER: And, you know, I've had advanced cancer for 18 years. So I have made my peace with uncertainty.

SAVOLAINEN: Another person I interviewed was Portia Weiskel.

PORTIA WEISKEL: I heard about people applauding to express gratitude for essential workers. And I said, well, what are we going to do in Leverett? And I said, howling. It's a (laughter) funny moment where you go out there and say, who is going to howl first?

SAVOLAINEN: Mary Hankinson is our local mask-maker.

MARY HANKINSON: What I thought would be just handing out 15 or 20 masks, we've made hundreds.

SAVOLAINEN: Mary is a nurse. And she told me what it was like inside the nursing home where she works.

HANKINSON: When people get sick, they're transferred to a COVID unit. You watch them go out the door. And you think, I'm never going to see you again. I don't get to hug you while you're dying. In all my years there, I have never let anyone die alone, and yet, we have been forced to. And I remember one woman. She was an old farmer. And she was spunky. I like spunky, little, old ladies. And she said, they tell me I have that virus. And I said, well, your test is out. We don't know that you have it. So of course, her test came back positive. That was the point at which the tears came, you know?

SAVOLAINEN: They're very lucky to have you.

HANKINSON: Being a recent widow, I really miss companionship. I'm OK while I'm doing something, it's when it's time to take a break. And that's when I go, crap, I wish I could talk to somebody other than the dog. And actually, I do talk to the dog a lot. And if they ever invent something where they can figure out how to get all the thoughts out of a dog's mind, I'm screwed (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF BLUE DOT SESSIONS' "OPEN FLAMES")

SAVOLAINEN: Doing these interviews gave me a sense of purpose and meaning that I badly needed. Just when things seemed so dark, I found some light in the words of the people all around me.

I'm curious if you had advice or words of wisdom?

WEISKEL: To not hold onto how things were before this and what we're missing.

NEISNER: I just think that we need to remind ourselves of how amazing it is to be alive at all. I feel that so deeply.

HANKINSON: I hope that we do carry the lessons of because I think we have learned lessons. Even if you're not able to articulate them all the time, they're there. We are changed as a people.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLUE DOT SESSIONS' "OPEN FLAMES")

KING: For StoryCorps, that's Jinny Savolainen and her neighbors in Leverett, Mass. Those interviews will be archived in the Library of Congress.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLUE DOT SESSIONS' "OPEN FLAMES")

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