A trend that began in Italy has made its way to The Rock.

In Italy, one of the epicenters of the coronavirus outbreak, children began placing rainbow drawings in their windows more than two weeks ago to send messages of hope to their isolated neighbors. And last week, the first rainbows began appearing in Kodiak.

The Kodiak rainbows started thanks in part to Katie Kesling, who read about the initiative in other communities and texted 15 of her friends, suggesting they put up rainbows on their windows. Then, numerous businesses jumped in with their own versions. And now, with Facebook posts highlighting the effort, dozens of households across town have put up colorful renditions on their street-facing windows hoping to put smiles on the faces of passersby. For many, it is an opportunity to spread optimism in a time of unprecedented uncertainty. 

Kesling’s husband was in the process of completing clinical rotations as he trained to become a physician’s assistant. But he was sent home due to the virus last week. They are now self-quarantining at home together with their 5-year-old daughter after a trip to Anchorage last week.

“The hardest thing is not being able to have playdates,” she said. “But we’re focusing on what we can do rather than what we can’t do, and on keeping our home a safe place, and supporting our medical (personnel), first responders and teachers.”

When Kesling and her family went for a drive Sunday evening, they spotted 32 rainbows — coincidentally the same number of COVID-19 cases confirmed in Alaska at the time. 

“It was just as exciting for my husband and I as it was for our daughter,” she said.

Kesling said she hopes the rainbows send a message to the community “that there is always light inside of darkness.”

“I feel like we’re preparing for the storm,” she said. But the rainbow always comes when the storm has passed, she added. 

While they have been quarantining, Kesling and her family have relied on the kindness of neighbors and friends, who have dropped off groceries, salsa and halibut dip.

As concern over the virus grows, and more community members return to Kodiak from off-island trips, some are using Facebook to offer their services, volunteering to shop for quarantined Kodiakans. 

“If there is a time for our community to shine, it’s now,” Kesling said. 

Kodiak History Museum Executive Director Sarah Harrington said the rainbow initiative has helped the museum stay engaged with the community even as it has had to close its doors to the public to prevent the spread of the virus. 

“It was kind of exciting to see a bunch of rainbows going up around town. The museum staff wanted to join that effort,” Harrington said. “When we had it up in the windows, we were feeling empowered and appreciative of the fact that we can do something for the community at this time when we all feel kind of unable to help in any other way.”

As the community rallies to support each other in preparation for the spread of the virus, the Kodiak History Museum has launched a project to preserve artifacts pertaining to this unprecedented time in history.

The Kodiak Historical Society “recognizes the incredible historic significance of the coronavirus disease and its impact on our island community,” according to a news release.

“As each day unfolds, we are responding to the global pandemic and adapting the way we function as individuals, as families, and as a community. The stories we tell and our lives will be forever changed as the result of COVID-19.”

The project, called “Day by Day,” aims to build historical records shared at the Kodiak History Museum, and to boost morale and build community, according to the news release. 

Submissions, including photographs, mandates, speeches, audio recording, personal histories, letters, notices and signs, social media posts, screenshots, and memes, can be sent to daybyday@kodiakhistorymuseum.org.

“Our purpose is to preserve and share Kodiak’s history and this is such a historic event. We really wanted to engage the community and honor what’s happening and honor people’s experiences. The history museum is the perfect place to bring people together in the telling of our stories and sharing of experiences,” Harrington said.

Margaret Greutert, curator of collections at the museum, came up with the idea last week as the Kodiak Emergency Services Council declared a local emergency and people began observing social distancing in greater numbers. The museum hopes to capture significant changes in the community for the purposes of future research.

The museum has already received a handful of photographs capturing what this time has been like in Kodiak: kids building forts in their living rooms, moms doings beading projects and hand work while they’re sitting at home with their children, garden starts, birding, and rainbows. 

“Right now, what we’re really seeing is that our community is safe, our people are responding proactively — doing social distancing and spending time at home with their kids and their loved ones,” Harrington said. 

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