100 years ago in September and October 1918, the Spanish Flu was at its peak.
The virus, which often led to pneumonia, killed between 50 and 100 million people, about 5 percent of the world's population. In the U.S. 600,000 died, and 20,000 people in New York alone. My grandmother was one of them. She died in the third wave of the virus, in the spring of 1919. It was her death and the stories my father told me about life afterward that set me on the path to writing Between Before & After.
The Spanish flu changed the trajectory of lives. My father was ten when his mother died. His youngest sister went to an orphanage; his middle sister was taken in by relatives. My father was left to survive on the streets of Brooklyn.
He wasn’t alone, in New York 30,000 abandoned or orphaned children overflowed orphanages. Many flu orphans took to the streets. Many, like my father, were from immigrants neighborhoods where overcrowded tenements assisted the flu in its deadly work. It was in every major city. October 1918 was the deadliest month with more than 100,000 Americans dying. For the those left behind, life would never be the same.
Ever wonder if we’re prepared in the event of another pandemic? To see the latest advance in influenza research click here.
To learn more about the Spanish Flu and see pictures from the CDC archives, click here.