Friday, 27 March 2020 15:19

COLUMN: 'We are in this together'

Written by
Rate this item
(0 votes)

Our world is going through a pandemic just as it did a hundred years ago. Back then it was called the 1918 flu or Spanish flu. Today it’s called the coronavirus.

The 1918 flu pandemic lasted from January 1918 to December 1920. Before it was through, it infected 500 million people — about a quarter of the world’s population. The rapid movement of soldiers around the globe was the major spreader of the disease.

Reported cases of the Spanish flu dropped off during the summer of 1918. The hope was that the virus had run its course, but this was just the calm before the storm. 

As September of 1918 rolled around, the virus had somehow mutated with a harsher strain and, by November, the death rate from the virus skyrocketed.

Instead of just affecting the very old and very young as the regular flu did, this second phase of the new strain made a big hit on folks 25 to 35 years of age who were in the prime of their life.

Other factors that caused this flu to spread was that public health officials were unwilling to impose quarantines during wartime. The U.S. was also hampered by nurse shortages due to them serving in military camps and on the front lines. The shortage was made worse by none other than the American Red Cross’s refusal to use trained African American nurses until the worst of the pandemic was over.

In 1919, a third wave of the flu spread, but was far less deadly than the second wave. From 1347 to 1353, the Black Death (carried by fleas and rats) caused between 25 to 34 million deaths across Europe, but the Spanish flu was much more on a global scale.

If it was a global pandemic, how did the Spanish flu get its name? Seems during the start of World War I, Spain was a neutral country and the Spanish media were relatively free to report on what was going on in other countries. Thus, folks just connected the flu with Spain.

According to Anne Rasmussen, a historian at the EHESS University (an institution with unique standing in the world of research and education) located in Paris, France, the Spanish flu and our new strain called Coronavirus are not comparable. 

“Things are completely different,” she says. “We have learned a lot of lessons from each epidemic. We are far better prepared to fight this new pandemic. Things are done on a different scale, with much more research and a much more efficient approach in dealing with diseases. There are great reasons for hope.”

On a more personal note, my dad was born in December 1918. My grandparents already had two other sons. They lived on a rural farm in northern Richmond County. Word of mouth got around the community about the Spanish flu, and there was concern, but who would have thought that it would strike in such a rural area?

If anybody thinks that a virus like this only affects large urban areas, they might be deadly wrong. The Spanish flu found the Dennis family who only lived a few miles through the woods from my grandparents’ farm. The virus was probably brought in by a soldier on leave from the war. Before it was through, seven young members of the Dennis family succumbed to the deadly virus — six in one week.

Their ages ranged from 15 to 2 years old. Their parents were also sick, but managed to survive with the help of an African American family who lived just down the road. They would bring food and leave it on the porch for the sick family. The children were all buried in a row next to each other at a cemetery across the road from Liberty Hill Church in Montgomery County. I can’t imagine what this family and so many others went through during that time in our history.

Folks, I didn’t write this story to increase your anxiety in dealing with this new coronavirus. I just wanted to remind you that this is not the first time or the last time our world will see a pandemic. Our human race will go on ‘til the Lord Jesus returns.

Like the president says, “We are in this together and we will win this war.”

God be with us and heal our land.

J.A. Bolton is the author of “Just Passing Time” and co-author of “Just Passing Time Together.” He is also a member of the Anson County Writers Club, the Anson and Richmond County Historical Societies, the N.C. Storytelling Guild and the Story Spinners of Laurinburg. Contact him at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..