The Faces of Pandemic

The pictures below were taken sometime around 1912. On the left is my grandmother, Mary, age 15 or so. Next is her sister Alice, age 16. On the right is Mabel, age 20. They all lived in Aurora, Colorado, and both Alice and Mabel were college graduates, which was unusual at the time. Mabel was a schoolteacher and Alice would later work for the Gates Tire and Rubber Company.

Here they are again in early 1918. Mary is on the left, Mabel in the middle, and Alice on the right. Not a care in the world.

Finally, here’s an entry in the family Bible a few months later:

The Spanish flu of 1918 first broke out in Haskell County, Kansas. From there it spread overseas, where it eventually mutated into a far deadlier strain that found its way back to Boston and then across the country, reaching its peak in October and early November of 1918.

One of the unusual aspects of the Spanish flu was that it mostly killed young adults: half of its victims were between the ages of 20 and 40. So when it roared through Aurora it was mostly young people who were its victims. Alice (age 22) died on November 9. Mabel (age 26) died on November 22. William Smith (age 33), a stepbrother, died on November 28. My grandmother never got over missing her sisters.

Coronavirus won’t be this bad. Not even close. But there are faces behind the masks, and there are going to be a lot more if we don’t get our act together fast and put serious professionals in charge of stopping it. Mike Pence might be a decent guy, but he’s just not cut out for this role. People are going to die because Donald Trump cares only about his own image and appointed Pence largely to guarantee that he’d have a high-level scapegoat if things go south.

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FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

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