Nowell Briscoe is a former Monroe resident living in Atlanta. He writes a monthly column on the history of Walton County. His email address is nowellbriscoe@bellsouth.net.

If anyone had told me in January our lives would resemble pages from a book of fiction, I would have said they were crazy.

Truth be told, that is exactly what has happened to the world with the onset of the coronavirus from China. The virus has totally and completely changed our lives in ways we never would have imagined. We now wonder if life will ever be as we once knew it.

In early March, after rumblings of this new virus had begun circulating, there was talk of a new book which seemed to mirror exactly what we were beginning to experience with the coronavirus. The book’s title was “The End of October,” written by Lawrence Wright. There was great curiosity as to just how a person could write a book about something so sinister, destructive and unknown to the public, something that would hit us with a force unlike anything we had ever seen before and be published to almost coincide with the onslaught of the virus as it hit America?

I considered getting a copy to read but hesitated. Why read a book about something we were battling in real life?

Daily the newspapers, television and internet are full of the horrors of what we are experiencing all over the world. Our jobs have vanished, making the unemployment rate in the country the worst since the Great Recession, with between 1 million to 3 million Georgians out of work and deaths now surpassing 80,000, many more than from the Vietnam war.

Quarantined in our homes, we look out at the world through our windows and are only permitted walks in our neighborhoods and being mindful of keeping a safe distance should we encounter a neighbor.

We are fearful each time we venture out to the grocery store, where we now find the meat supply dwindling causing more chaos in what we can eat. Our cities and towns have become like “ghost towns” with folks scrambling to do whatever is possible to help keep their employees from losing their jobs or starving.

The food establishment owners are now offering curbside pick-up of items to help keep their employees busy and making a little money. Some of our best known and longest established businesses are shutting down or filing for bankruptcy as they are no longer able to function in this new world.

No longer can we gather as groups to see our friends and families marry or grieve together as we bury those we love. Funeral homes have been taxed beyond their limits and resources with requests for graveside services with only a limited number of family present. Cremations have increased again as they rose when the AIDS virus took so many young and talented people from our midst. With the graveside services and cremations families now plan for public memorial services to be held at a later date, if ever.

We should salute our talented florists who are working nonstop to fill orders to give a bit of cheer and love through their craftsmanship as they send bouquets and arrangements to families and friends as a silent testimony of their love and support in these difficult times when a personal visit with a hug would be the most appreciated but not possible.

Many times during this period of self-quarantine have I thought of and sent out prayers of thanks and appreciation to all the doctors and nurses and healthcare professionals who have gone so very far above and beyond their normal duties to help ensure we stay as safe and protected as possible. These are the ones we owe our lives to at this time for their un-daunting courage and selflessness in facing this dreaded disease face on and many times sacrificing their own lives for the good of our country.

How often I have thought of those doctors and nurses of old from Monroe and wondered how they would have handled this situation if it had hit Monroe say in the 1950s or ’60s? Those beloved doctors we had: Drs. Stewart, Head, Nunnally, Aycock, Huie, Pirkle, Thompson, DeFreese, Brooks, Moreland, Covington and the always wonderful and truly dedicated nurses back in the day not to mention the many “Gray Ladies” who served at the Walton County Hospital and assisted the doctors and nurses in any way possible.

Our glimpses out into the world are now through our televisions and computers as we Skype and Zoom but even then we find ourselves feeling as if we are standing on the sidelines of life seeing things only “through a glass darkly.”

Being an amateur archivist, in early March I began keeping a file on the virus and the havoc it has brought into our lives. Also I am keeping the front sections of the Atlanta paper along with The New York Times and The Walton Tribune to have a tangible print record of what this virus has done to debilitate our lives in ways we never thought possible.

There are no survivors of the 1918 pandemic left, but the internet is full of all sorts of pertinent information as to how the pandemic nearly ruined our country but thanks to perseverance and supreme dedication we were able to bounce back and rebuild. I wanted to ensure these papers and articles documenting this dreaded invasion be kept as a record of the force, dedication and determination to eradicate it as quickly as possible for future generations to see.

Every day I hear of so many who find being at home and in quarantine is becoming such a hardship and the urge to get back into the world is so strong, especially those with children at home where the parents are not only fighting to keep food on the table, a roof over their heads and trying to keep sane themselves, they also now take on the role of “teacher” for their children. There is no way to conceive of the mental strain and anguish that these individuals and families face in what we now experience.

Being retired, my days are not as stress-filled as so many others. With my days volunteering at a thrift store in limbo, I have more time on my hands than normal but always find things to keep me busy. There is more time to read and enjoy movies on DVD; working on my various obituary notebooks and Monroe notebooks are always enjoyable. A book close to my desk, “Let’s Bring them Back: An Encyclopedia of Forgotten Yet Useful, Curious and Commendable Things from Times Gone By,” penned by Lesley M. Blume, delves into many things we have by-passed in favor of newer, more modern technology.

A recent article in a newspaper talked about how people are reaching others now with letters and notes. Receiving a letter or note from friends always perks me up so last week I refilled my old Parker fountain pen to send out notes and letters to friends I rarely see, hoping it will brighten their day. From the bookshelves I am reacquainting myself with stories and tales from some of the high school and college literature books along with my big book of Shakespeare and refreshing my memory with stories from the Greek classics as taught by Nell Mashburn in her book-lined studio.

Music brings a calm and peace to our lives, especially in times of stress. Folks on television say it is time to look back to the things which brought us enjoyment in years past and I feel now is a good time to revisit those “tried and true” things we enjoyed when younger, things which now are considered “obsolete” but for whatever reason have endured the tests of time.

Hopefully it will not be much longer until a vaccine for the virus is found and the sheltered life we know now will become a thing of the past. I look forward to the day when a virus from the pages of a novel became a reality for the world but thanks to staunch courage, determination and bravery of more folks than we can count, we can say with a smile on our faces as we move forward, “Yeah, been there, done that!”