On Year Later UIC Chicago Students Document How The COVID-19 Pandemic Has Changed Lives

Students at a Chicago university have been documenting every day of the COVID-19 pandemic with images of how the coronavirus has affected our lives.

Video Transcript

BRAD EDWARDS: Students at a Chicago university have been documenting every day of this pandemic with images of how coronavirus has affected their lives. CBS 2's Marie Saavedra, live in the West Loop. Marie, they're collecting pieces of the pandemic through pictures.

MARIE SAAVEDRA: They are, Brad. Pictures, but also videos, writings, voice recordings. And if you're in the throes of deep grief from losing someone to COVID, or just dealing with the stress of living with it daily, we understand that looking back might be the last thing you want to do. But if you do think about this time last year and look in your records, you may find that you cataloged history, too.

TEDROS ADHANON GHEBREYESUS: We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.

MARIE SAAVEDRA: With that announcement from the WHO, everything changed. But we had no idea how much yet I looked back in my photos from that first week of the pandemic and found this. A co-worker posted popular song choruses in the bathroom so we'd sing along and wash our hands for a full 20 seconds.

My colleague Marissa Parra had her passport all ready for a trip. And investigative producer Carol Thompson captured shelves cleared of toilet paper. These may feel silly now, but they are history.

LEANNE BARCELONA: Really, the goal is thinking about down the road. What are people going to want to see from this moment? Leanna Barcelona is a University of Illinois Chicago archivist working with the Six Feet Apart project. It's collecting reflections of the pandemic from across campus, everything from photos of it empty, to voice notes from students.

LOUIS LAFON (ON RECORDING): Something that's really been on my mind is the realization that life is never going to return back to normal.

MARIE SAAVEDRA: With time, the submissions have changed from shocked, to more resigned.

LEANNA BARCELONA: Now, we're seeing a little bit more about how people have adapted, how it's, you know, kind of become part of their regular life.

MARIE SAAVEDRA: But all of it holds historical value, including what you have on your camera roll. A year out, it is already fascinating to see what little we knew.

LEANNA BARCELONA: What the pandemic meant for us a year ago is a little bit different than what it means to us today, and what it'll mean to us 10 years from now.

MARIE SAAVEDRA: Now, UIC still doesn't know exactly what it's going to do with all this material, whether it's just set aside for research, or it lives online, or it's put into some sort of exhibit that we can eventually visit in person. They say that so many of these reflections are intensely personal, and that will certainly factor in as they make that decision. Live in the West Loop, Marie Saavedra, CBS 2 News.