I’m still sick but yesterday I felt well enough to sit in the living room and watch movies with Henry and do some knitting. And I’ve been reading a fantastic book that I got from the library a few weeks ago. I’m not done yet but it’s due tomorrow and I’ve already renewed it once so I really do need to give it back. But I’ll just check it out again as soon as I can so I can finish.
The story of the pandemic is just crazy. Around 40 million people died, worldwide. Forty million! (Record-keeping was spotty, so the death toll was probably far higher.) The pandemic hit near the end of World War One; more American soldiers were killed by the flu than were killed in combat.
In one division of soldiers who fought on the front lines in France from October 26th until the end of the war, “the flu killed 444 men. The number who were killed, wounded, missing, or captured in the war was 90.”
This was less than 100 years ago, and probably affected almost every family in the US. Probably most of us have a relative who died. (Family legend has it that my Great-Great Aunt Irma died in this flu pandemic but she actually died a couple of years earlier, in 1916.)
But this pandemic was, according to the author, “expunged from newspapers, magazines, textbooks, and society’s collective memory.”
Why? One theory is that it was just too horrific. So many people died in such a short amount of time, plus it was combined with the brand-new modern horrors of WWI (mustard gas, trench warfare, automatic weapons). People just wanted to forget the whole thing. Understandable, but I want to KNOW about it. I suspect that more people are familiar with the Black Death of the 14th century than are aware of this very comparable outbreak in modern times.
I watched a wonderful episode of American Experience a couple years ago about the 1918 flu pandemic. I need to see if that’s online somewhere and watch it again.