Frederica wrote:When you say "they probably did think it was the end of the world"--what are you basing that on?
You ask what I am basing my comments on, so I will tell you.
When I about thirteen years old, I was at my grandmother’s house, and I was sitting at the dining room table with her and her friend Mabel and my grandmother happened to mention one of her brothers who had died. My grandmother had two brothers who died within a month of each other but she never told me how they died. So I asked and was told they died of the flu. I had never heard of anyone dying from the flu, how does someone die from the flu? My grandmother replied it was an epidemic and it killed lots of people, and she looked at Mabel and said “Tell her Mabel, tell her how bad it was.”
So Mabel told me. She had been one of eight children, her mother had been the first to contract the flu and within ONE WEEK her mother and six of her brothers and sisters were dead. Only she, her brother, and her father survived.
I just couldn’t understand how something that deadly covered the globe, and killed so many people so quickly could become a passing footnote in history textbooks. It was a mystery that haunted me.
During the mid-1970s, I conducted 76 recorded interviews with survivors of the Spanish flu epidemic. The interviewees had been children, teenagers, and young adults in 1918-19. None of them had served in the armed forces. All of them had resided in the United States but were from different parts of the country. None of the people knew each other. Some of interviewees had contracted the flu, others had not. Some were from ethnic minorities.
of the 76 interviewees voiced at least three of the following concerns and emotions:
It’s a deadly disease. It could kill you, your family, your friends, etc. and you never knew from day to day if you would contract the disease or whose name would appear on the death lists.
2. Helplessness and loss of control–
You don’t know what causes it, you don’t know how to prevent it, and there are no vaccines or medicines. Can you contract it from dead people? Can you contract it from touching a handrail? How long is the incubation period? Is the healthy-looking woman standing next to you on the streetcar contagious? How do you keep from contracting it? You don’t know! Your only control option is quarantine
—How long would the epidemic last? Will it wipe us out? Is it the end of the world? The mailman is dead, the iceman is dead, the owners of the general store are dead and the store is closed, what do we do? It’s harvest time but we don’t have enough able-bodied people to work, what do we do?
of the interviewees knew someone who died from flu whether the person was a passing acquaintance or someone in their immediate family. While some interviewees experienced minor losses, other interviewees’ losses were catastrophic.
I am only relaying what the survivors said, what they thought at the time, and what they experienced.
The 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic is of it self an objective subject -- it is a fact, an actual reality uninfluenced by emotion. However first person recollections of that "fact" are by nature subjective because they are particular to individuals and subject to the emotions those individuals felt or thought as they experienced the reality of the event.