COVID-19 Oral Histories – Graham Hall Keough
For the past few weeks, Packer’s Upper School History Club has been working on an oral history project that documents the Packer community’s experience with COVID-19. Through 30 minute interviews with various people in the community, we have been recording people’s feelings, thoughts, and stories about this global pandemic. In addition to posting select parts of the interviews to the Prism website in both transcript and video form, we are also archiving these interviews at the Brooklyn Historical Society so that we can keep a visual and written record of these testimonies for the future generations. As for now, we hope this project is a way for people to stay connected and share their unique personal stories. Each week, new interviews will be posted, so keep coming back to learn more about your classmates’, teachers’, and colleagues’ experiences during this difficult and unusual time. We hope you enjoy!
-The Leaders of History Club: Sadie Sadler, Amelia Killackey, and Nick Yohn
Graham Hall-Keough: Class of 2021
Interview by: Nick Yohn
Q: How do you think being in Brooklyn and in New York has impacted your experience during COVID-19?
A: In the first couple of weeks, there was a lot of agreement among people about social distancing like “we’re in this together” and everyone was banging pots at 7 p.m. [to thank frontline hospital workers], but recently, everything that’s been happening with the cops and the police have been really unsettling and disturbing. I know how people’s interactions with the police differ a lot, and I’ve been skateboarding a lot with my friend Isaiah who used to go to Packer and is black… We’ve been going into the skate park a lot even though it’s closed and gotten kicked out by the cops a number of times, but now, after seeing everything that’s happened… I don’t know. On his [Snapchat] story today, he took a video of 3 police cars where he was—which was not Brooklyn Heights or Lower Manhattan—and it’s not like they were coming around and handing out masks, they were coming to inspect that everyone had masks, and that’s something that I’ve seen in Brooklyn and social media has helped spotlight, but it even impacts my own friends. It’s kind of odd to say it out loud, but the interaction with the police, if I was there with my friends, could potentially be a lot better than if I wasn’t there, and it feels weird to say out loud but like… that’s just the truth of the situation. This would be going on regardless of coronavirus as it goes on no matter what, but I think the coronavirus— where race and ethnicity shouldn’t matter when it comes to medical treatment or handing out masks or reinforcing social distancing— has shown sharp contrasts between Lower Manhattan versus the Bronx or deep Brooklyn which has been upsetting, to say the least.
Q: Have you been going outside at all during quarantine? What has been keeping you grounded and sane during quarantine?
A: I pretty much refuse to run because—I mean… I go outside to skateboard but I wouldn’t even consider that exercise because it’s just what I do for fun, and it’s good because you can do it alone, and you don’t really have to get close to people when you’re on the street. I’ve also been doing a lot of… like… in-house workouts… like I found a jump rope and so I’ve been doing that a lot in my living room… but it’s been fun.
I just think the happiest I’ve been is seeing progress through exercise or skateboarding just because like I’ve been setting goals for myself for skateboarding… like getting better at doing tricks. I also wanted to lose weight during quarantine and I’ve now lost a lot of weight and gotten stronger and seen progress which has kept me pretty motivated to do more. It’s been the best thing every day when something gets easier or I can do something new in terms of exercise or calisthenics… that’s when I feel the happiest probably.
Q: Do you think any aspects of your life will be permanently changed by COVID-19?
A: I don’t think things are going to change that much… I mean, they might… like maybe tomorrow morning when my sister gets her [COVID-19] test back and it’s positive, that could change how it affects me because if she has it, then my family most definitely has it, and like that could mean a lot. My perception of the risk of getting the virus has been pretty low because no one close to me has gotten it yet, but that could change at any moment, so…
I also think high school culture will definitely change… I just can’t imagine a house party happening in the near future and that might not like a permanent change, but it’s interesting to think about how… how different it’s gonna be.
See more of Graham’s interview in the video below: