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Library announces winners of ‘COVID and Me’ essay contest

The Austin Public Library has announced the winners for their “COVID and Me” essay contest.

Winners were chosen in three categories: adult, teen and children. Below are copies of the winning essays.


Jamie Riskedahl

Austin, MN

2020 started with such promise. It seemed like we were finally going to work together as a nation. Now a mere 5 months later we find ourselves more divided than ever. Daily fights break out on social media and even in person over masks, gloves and opening the economy. There is an undercurrent of fear and anxiety that seems to plague all walks of life. I find myself turning more and more to my faith as a way through a time where I don’t know what my future holds. Our world seems to almost have a gray film over it, even the sunny days haven’t shone as brightly until recently.

I’ve been hard pressed to find a way to express myself during this time. I’ve felt more disconnected than ever and that is saying something coming from a Scandinavian Minnesotan. Most of us joked that the six feet suggestion was a little close. While it was in jest for the most part, we weren’t bothered because distance between us and strangers is a natural state. As the time has drug on though and two weeks turned into four then six and now who knows what the coming days hold, I became melancholy. Creative pursuits were stifled which in turn hurt my plans for a startup. I began to question future paths to find one that made the most sense.

My faith and Zoom meetings with others from church became a refuge. They were a spot of brightness to my day and week that was slowly starting to peel away the callouses that were forming on my empathy and joy of life. As I dive in deeper to study, my laughter is returning. My anger is dissipating like the fog that was so long over everything around. I don’t fear what the future brings anymore. I don’t understand why all of this is happening and I certainly don’t like it but I know there is a plan in all of this. I was reminded this week by a friend much wiser than me that I was made for a time such as this. I can make it through because there is a God who holds me up through this and every other bad thing that has come and will come into my life. I wish there wasn’t struggle and trouble, but the reality is that we live in a broken world. There will come a day when there will be no more weeping, but that day isn’t here yet. For now I can rest my weary head, my anxieties, my fears and even my anger at the situation in the hands of a God who loves and cares for me. It brings me a peace that I was sorely missing in the earlier days of all of these new trials we face as mankind.


Maia Gabriela Corgoja


Pandemic Journal (Day 63)

62 days already. I want to picture the world in the future, but It’s hard since I am stuck at home, trying to escape the headache those online school hours give me, but I am  trying to do my best!

How will our world look in one year? The vaccine should be out and available for everyone. I like thinking that it should be forbidden not to be vaccinated. Maybe, if we all respect the rules now and protect ourselves, we will be free to walk on the streets or go out to the markets without masks and without the fear of getting infected.

I wish for this pandemic to end faster because I really miss school and more importantly, my friends. I talk to them every day on the phone and video calls, but it would be much nicer to actually see them in person. I miss my teachers, even though I meet them online every week.

Maybe our lives will go back to normal. Another normal: it will never be the same. I have had this talk with my mother already, and she said that, because some people don’t go to work, the unemployment rate will grow extremely high and people will end up on streets, with no jobs and no other options, which will lead to more cases of infections. After the pandemic ends (because it has to end somehow), everybody will start putting their lives back on track. I am dreaming of the moment I will finally be able to see my friends and relatives.

Right now, almost all my family members are gathered up in the same house and it’s really hard for me not to want some space. Not that I don’t have any, but sometimes they really get on my nerves. I try to stay calm because I know it’s not exactly easy for them either, but I’m a teenager, as they say. I try to see the good side of everything: Now that we are all together we can spend more quality time playing board games and talking to each other!

My grandma is cooking the most delicious pies in the world, and my mom has more than enough time to practise her cooking skills. She has also plenty of time to spend with me! She works from home, so she’s always here. Now we have time “to keep up” with the weeds in our garden. We cut the grass every 2 days: you have no idea how quickly it grows back! My step dad likes cooking also, you could say we have a family of chefs. (the cat makes an exception because it only likes to taste)

I hope that tomorrow, the next day, and the day after, and in one year, and forever, we will be better people in a better world.


Hannah Zerke

Austin, MN

It has been fifty-eight days since school has closed.  Yes I have been keeping track.  Anyways, I miss getting to play with friends, I also miss going to school which is funny because I used to hate school.  What matters is that I’m keeping me, my family, and everyone safe from getting sick.  While I have been staying home I have been calling my friends a lot.  Like we could call for hours.  One of my friends started a pen paling club.  We have tons of our friends write letters I have 5 pen pals.  But, other than that I also go on runs with my mom.  She runs and I bike with her because I’m not a good runner.  I like playing cards with my family too.  My sister loves to play trash.  I also like drawing.  I draw my own superheroes.  They all look funny but I like them.  I hope I can play with my friends soon!