Fear Goes Viral

Flu Epidemic 1918

Flu season always sends chills through me. Literally.

This season a pandemic of panic is sweeping the nation and the globe. Coronavirus fear has gone viral spreading faster than the virus itself. Social media and cable news are promoting the hysteria, stoking genuine fears while our own President offers mind-boggling misinformation.

As we brace ourselves for the coronavirus and the likely possibility of a pandemic, I am chillingly reminded of health epidemics past. Frightening tales of the devastating flu epidemic of 1918 when members of my own grandmother’s well-to-do family were struck down, haunted me through my childhood. These tragic stories are now racing to the surface. An otherwise healthy brother and sister both in their early twenties had perished in the epidemic at the prime of their life.

A veteran of the first and worst flu epidemic ever, my grandmother’s fears and suspicion born of that war, were easily transmitted to me.

No One is Safe

vintage photo of people No One is Safe

Growing up the world loomed large with the prospect of invasion on all fronts.

Invaders undetected often disguised. The world of germs, nuclear bombs, communists and sexual predators all merged together and became muddled. It was a vague unrelenting fear. Something could arrive from beyond the horizon before you ever knew what hit you. Unseen germs infiltrating my bloodstream, subversive communists invading my country unseen radioactivity from unseen bombs and of course the most subversive of all unseen touches from trusted relative family.

It was the arbitrariness of any of them that was terrifying. It was if the whole order of the universe had been violated.

Vintage Photo 1918 man on bicycle


The young man pictured on the bicycle would be dead within months of the day this photograph was taken.

This young man would never reach 25 let alone middle-aged. I would never get a chance to meet my Great Uncle Henry ( for whom my dear late cousin Henry was named ).

In this picture which hangs in my home, my uncle remains forever young and vital and filled with promise. It is a daily reminder of how precarious and quickly an epidemic can arise. It does not discriminate between the young and the old, rich or the poor.

And it is not a hoax!

opyright (©) 2020 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved


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