The events of the last week have fueled a whirlwind of emotions across the country. From shock, to confusion, to worry, to fear, the feelings wash over us throughout the day, sometimes all at once. I think it is important for us to remind ourselves that we will get through it and that this too will pass.
As I watch the news and listen to the experts, I can’t help but think back to a memory from my youth. It was 1985, and I was creating a family tree for a school project. I remember talking to my grandfather and asking him about the Krackomberger tree. He told me that when he was just nine years old, the Spanish Flu of 1918 swept across North Jersey, taking many lives – including eight of his brothers and sisters, as well as his father. Only his mother and one sister survived. I remember standing there, hearing this for the first time, my mouth and eyes wide open.
He told me that it was so cold that the ground was frozen solid, too solid to dig, so they had to stack dozens and dozens of coffins on the neighborhood front lawns. My grandfather was always so quiet, so stoic; a true gentle giant to me. I can’t imagine the impact that would have on a nine year old brain. Spanish Flu also became known as the “forgotten pandemic;” so named because its spread was overshadowed by the deadliness of WWI and then covered up by news blackouts and poor record keeping. In all, 50 million people (5% of the world population) died from The Spanish Flu.
Since 1918, there have been several other pandemics around the world. A flu pandemic in 1957 killed around 2 million people worldwide, including 70,000 people in the United States. One that followed in 1968 killed approximately 1 million people, including some 34,000 Americans. More than 12,000 Americans perished during the H1N1 scare in 2009.
Now, with coronavirus, millennials have their first real scare, or at least what should be. While our leaders both locally and federally have repeatedly warned to stay home and keep social distancing, some of the internet and social media “me me me” obsessed crowd remains slow to heed the warnings. Last Saturday night, I was driving to the store and decided to take a cruise around Las Vegas while I was out. I have to tell you that I was shocked to see how many people were out and about – souvenir shopping, sight seeing, and partying. When I drove past the outlet shops, there were very few empty spaces in the parking lot. And while The Strip was slower than usual, it was still packed with tourists; Downtown even more so.
Right now I am in my sixth day of self quarantine. Other than going to the grocery store or the pharmacy, I am immobile. I have been stocking up on items and sharing them with my neighbors. I implore you to do your part and check on your neighbors, especially seniors, to see if they need anything the next time you go out.
I truly believe we need to take heed of the nation’s leading doctors and scientists and just shut everything down for a while. When I think about what my grandfather and my aunt went through in 1918, we are truly blessed things are not worse. We have so many things to occupy our time now while we wait it out. And yes while Netflix and YouTube are great, my final piece of advice would be to use this time to reintroduce yourself to your loved ones. Cook dinner for your wife, play board games with your kids. Or if you are alone, reintroduce yourself to you. Read, make lists, go for a walk. Think of everything you are lucky to have and all the ways you are going to appreciate them more once this has passed.
We are a very strong country that has survived through many tough times and we will do so again. I know that we as a people are going to be even stronger after this passes, both individually and collectively. Stay strong my friends.