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Thu Apr 2, 2020, 06:46 PM

'I Fled New York With My Wife, Kids And Dog-- Just As My Ancestors Fled The 1918 Pandemic'

~ 'I fled New York with my wife, kids and dog – just as my ancestors fled the 1918 pandemic,'~ by Bryan Mealer, The Guardian, April 2, 2020. The 1918 influenza pandemic killed my great-grandmother and her daughter. I thought this was merely tragic until I found myself leaving on the heels of another plague, a week before lockdown. Excerpts:

The 1918 influenza pandemic killed my great-grandmother Julia and her oldest daughter, Goldie. They were both young, in their early 40s and 20s, and lived in west Texas during one of the biggest oil booms in American history, one that brought tens of thousands to the towns where they lived, and where the plague spread like grassfire. For the longest time I’d thought of this family history as merely tragic – a pin placed along a timeline of calamities we’ve endured through the generations. Their deaths from influenza had existed as an unlived abstraction. That is, until I found myself fleeing New York City with my wife, children and dog on the heels of another plague. The city had already begun to close in on itself. The kids’ school had shuttered the previous day, along with the seminary where I’m currently studying.

Any thoughts of staying had quickly crumbled after seeing the lines stretch around the grocery store. With the car stuffed with everything it can hold, including camping gear and the contents from our pantry and medicine cabinets strapped to the roof, we head west, back home toward Texas. Later that week the governor would order New Yorkers to stay indoors and self-isolate. As we cross the George Washington Bridge I find a prayer of gratitude for the ability to even leave. Yet despite this privilege, I know we are not truly safe no matter the distance. And this fear is one I recognize not from my own experience but from those I’ve covered as a journalist, people who fled places such as Congo and Somalia and Guatemala and for whom these decisions are tragically commonplace. If anything, the plague has a way of showing us that our exceptionalism is a myth. It shakes us awake with terrifying perspective and shows us who we truly are. As we flee New York and abandon our work and seemingly important plans, I know that I am but a speck of dust beneath a deadly settling fog. I am history made new. Out on the road, I enter communion with the ghosts of my kin.
•••


- Seattle Police wearing masks during the 1918 Influenza Epidemic.

My great-grandparents were homeless when the first cases of influenza reached Texas in September 1918. Already it had ripped through Europe, killing thousands of servicemen training and fighting the war. By the end of summer, the plague had reached cities along the eastern seaboard, where it would kill more than 30,000 New Yorkers. In Philadelphia, bodies would be stacked so high in the morgues that “veteran embalmers recoiled and refused to enter”, as one historian noted. At the same time, the virus traveled west on the railroads the same way that we and many others are doing now along the interstate highways, unsure if we’re spreading it from town to town when we pump our gas or hand our credit cards through the drive-thru windows. It reached Texas in the midst of a crippling three-year drought, one that had wiped out my family’s farm along with countless others. After the bank foreclosed on their 71 acres near the town of Eastland, my great-grandfather John Lewis Mealer and his wife, Julia, had packed their four children and belongings into a horse-drawn wagon and joined thousands of other refugees seeking shelter.

By summer 1918, the roadside between Eastland and Dallas swarmed with homeless families who were broke, hungry and desperate. A layer of dust covered everything, only deepening the misery. “They have exhausted their own resources and now the people are brought to the point of starvation with no further hopes in the west.” "The people must be fed or leave the country or die.” Yet as thousands fled eastward, many more were coming the other way. In January 1917, a major oil discovery near the town of Ranger, just 10 miles from my family’s land, had sparked the biggest oil boom in the world. Its timing couldn’t have been more perfect for the ongoing war in Europe, where allied forces were dangerously low on fuel, so much that Walter Long, the British secretary of state for the colonies, had told the House of Commons that fall that “oil is probably more important at this moment than anything else”. The oil boom swelled the population of Ranger from 1,000 to 30,000 in less than a year. Tent cities and tar-paper shacks rose near the rigs and along the outskirts of town. In the boarding houses, men slept in shifts for lack of beds. Trainloads of boomers and servicemen pulled in each day, some clinging to the roofs. When the plague arrived in September it had easy pickings...

Read More, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/02/coronavirus-1918-influenza-epidemic-fleeing-new-york

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Reply 'I Fled New York With My Wife, Kids And Dog-- Just As My Ancestors Fled The 1918 Pandemic' (Original post)
appalachiablue Apr 2020 OP
robbedvoter Apr 2020 #1
tblue37 Apr 2020 #2
marble falls Apr 2020 #13
getagrip_already Apr 2020 #4
essme Apr 2020 #7
essme Apr 2020 #6
marble falls Apr 2020 #15
marble falls Apr 2020 #9
tblue37 Apr 2020 #3
appalachiablue Apr 2020 #5
tblue37 Apr 2020 #8
appalachiablue Apr 2020 #10
tblue37 Apr 2020 #11
appalachiablue Apr 2020 #12
tblue37 Apr 2020 #14
marble falls Apr 2020 #16
appalachiablue Apr 2020 #17
marble falls Apr 2020 #18
elocs Apr 2020 #19

Response to appalachiablue (Original post)

Thu Apr 2, 2020, 07:12 PM

1. Bully for you! You must be special.

The rest of us are staying put.

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Response to robbedvoter (Reply #1)

Thu Apr 2, 2020, 07:47 PM

2. It is an excerpt from an article in "The Guardian." It is not about the person who posted

it here on DU, so its actual author will never see your snarky comment .

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Response to tblue37 (Reply #2)

Thu Apr 2, 2020, 08:39 PM

13. They were sooo clever by titling it "'I Fled New York With My Wife, Kids And Dog" ...

We know its not by a member. We also know Trump never sees our comments about him, either. He isn't a member, so far as I know. I did enjoy your snark over our snark.

Be safe, stay calm. We're in this together all of us,

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Response to robbedvoter (Reply #1)

Thu Apr 2, 2020, 07:50 PM

4. it's easy for a lot of us though....

I don't need to go out of the house very often, but when I do, I can stay away from crowds and hopefully, a high number of infectious people.

I have 5 acres in central mass. Great internet access. A boat in RI I hope to spend time on this season. Social distance isn't a contact sport here.

Living in new york city? Not so much. Even a quiet walk will expose you to the breath of dozens of people. Food stores are busy. Restaurants have minimum wage labor preparing take out.

You really can't isolate there. I don't blame a person for hitting the road.

It will be there when they get back. Happy trails.

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Response to getagrip_already (Reply #4)

Thu Apr 2, 2020, 08:08 PM

7. The OP didn't write this

See the link-

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Response to robbedvoter (Reply #1)

Thu Apr 2, 2020, 08:07 PM

6. It's a story from the Guardian

?

The OP didn't write it.

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Response to essme (Reply #6)

Thu Apr 2, 2020, 08:41 PM

15. No kidding.

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Response to robbedvoter (Reply #1)

Thu Apr 2, 2020, 08:15 PM

9. Double bully!

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Response to appalachiablue (Original post)

Thu Apr 2, 2020, 07:49 PM

3. appalachiablue, you might want to put this in an excerpt box so people won't think you wrote it. nt

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Response to tblue37 (Reply #3)

Thu Apr 2, 2020, 08:07 PM

5. I don't know how to do an excerpt box, any info? Thanks. For

the title I added quotes and put in the author and Guardian info. in the lines at the very top. Sometimes readers think a post a first person account I realize.

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Response to appalachiablue (Reply #5)

Thu Apr 2, 2020, 08:12 PM

8. Up at the top of your message box you'll find tags for various fonts, plus tags for excerpt and

blockquote. Click the "excerpt" tab right before the beginning of your excerpt, then click it again at the end of the quoted material.

Another way is to highlight what you want to excerpt, then click the "excerpt" button just once.

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Response to tblue37 (Reply #8)

Thu Apr 2, 2020, 08:20 PM

10. I've seen the font & other options, never use them but I'll give the

'excerpt' function a try sometime. Gracias.


Mary had a little lamb,

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Response to appalachiablue (Reply #10)

Thu Apr 2, 2020, 08:21 PM

11. There ya go! nt

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Response to tblue37 (Reply #11)

Thu Apr 2, 2020, 08:38 PM

12. Now I recognize the set up and it's easy, peasy. This man's

story and writing is well done.

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Response to appalachiablue (Reply #12)

Thu Apr 2, 2020, 08:41 PM

14. You should excerpt your OP--to avoid snarky comments like the first one in this thread.

See how many of us had to correct that poster?

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Response to appalachiablue (Reply #5)

Thu Apr 2, 2020, 08:43 PM

16. No worries, we all know you didn't write this, the link was a giveaway!

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Response to marble falls (Reply #16)

Thu Apr 2, 2020, 09:20 PM

17. It just takes a bit of effort to note the article link, title, author

etc. Use of eyes and brain is required beyond reading only the title, and blah, blah, blah.

The author did a fine job with this human interest and history piece. My parents told us about our grandparents who were in their early 20s-30s during the 1918 influenza and how all family members survived. More than that I don't know.

I wonder if the writer read Camus' The Plague & Defoe's acct. of the 1665 plague, probably.

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Response to appalachiablue (Reply #17)

Thu Apr 2, 2020, 09:26 PM

18. The Plague was a dense read. Couldn't put it down but he and Sartre both require a ...

little discipline to read. I had to read most pages a few times.

Have you read Pepys' diary? Fun reading, very detailed.

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Response to appalachiablue (Original post)

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