Too Familiar Memory Of 1918 Flu Epidemic

WhlChrsThe growing seriousness and death toll of worldwide problems today caused by coronavirus is a reminder. It happened to my family 102 years ago during World War I. The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, the deadliest in history, infected 500 million people worldwide, and killed 20 million, including 675,000 Americans.

It was the year my dad and mom married, both in their early twenties and living in Philadelphia. When he was drafted for Army service in 1917, he was rejected because of severe kidney damage, probably the result of effects of the flu. In 1920, my mom gave birth to a daughter, and in another two years my older brother. I was born in 1925.

During those years, my dad’s fragile health continued to deteriorate. Probably because of the physical damage caused by the Spanish flu a decade earlier, dad died in 1929 at age 36. He left behind my mom with three young kids, just in time for the Great Depression and following years of poverty. We can only pray this current spreading outbreak of the coronavirus won’t become so devastating to American families.

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