Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 77

San Francisco family, before and after the siren A siren has a sound all its own. It fills, pierces, and overwhelms all at once. The sound enters your ears and holds in place beside your brain. Open your mouth and it will enter there, too. Your nose is next. Hear it? A siren cannot be escaped until the sound starts its steady winding-down. Less. Fading. Stopped. Silent. Now … [Read more...]

Learning From the 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 76

Brevig Village, Alaska, modern view of the grave site November 20, 1918. The 76th day of the worst wave of influenza. "Damn this ground is hard." The men with pick-axes, shovels, and explosives must have said it a lot. A dozen times. That's the reaction when you're trying to dig into the frozen earth. Six feet down into ice and dirt. Maybe a hundred times is more like. A slice of ground … [Read more...]

The Graduation Of A Lifetime

My Saturday last is a lesson for all of us. The small moments of May 23rd have a larger meaning in the midst of Covid-19. I've got a feeling about the truth of this. I invite you to stay with me for a few minutes. I began the day with some dread, to be honest. High school graduation. My fear was that the Covid-revised ceremony would encapsulate our overall feeling of a sad end to our oldest … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 70

St. Paul, Minnesota, 1918 Making a hash of things. An old phrase, it means you take something and cut it into smaller bits. A thing once together is now jumbled and unorganized. Influenza has made all of life an unending hash. The question is left—how do you unhash a hash? November 15, 1918, Day 70 after influenza broke loose from Fort Devens in Massachusetts. It's a make-it-hash … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 68

Downtown Tucson They all seem plausible. They all seem understandable. But they all seem straining toward different directions. A shared point, a common bond, is absent and without it, it's hard to know where to go except farther down a single lane of reality, of life. The junction is empty and open and not yet joined. Five paths pull against the center. Day 68, November 14, 1918. One. … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 67

The Mississippi River, Grand Rapids, Minnesota In the far north, along a ribbon called the Mississippi River, eagles perch on the branches of the gray pine trees. At their choosing, they'll launch and fly downward at a long angle, eyes fixed and legs tucked. Gliding and gaining speed, they cruise at top speed parallel to the water. At coordinates measured in quarter-inches, they slowly drop a … [Read more...]

The Bottom Of The River

The River, bottom and top This morning, over coffee, a sort of sun beam broke through the clouds. My wife had just read the Day 59 installment of my "Today In 1918" series. We talked about the story. In listening to her, I had a bit of an epiphany, as I mentioned, a sort of sun beam. The clouds, which if you've been around me you already know, symbolize my usual state of mind. The … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 61

So who do you believe? The media or a group of students? A fair question but when you dig a little, you find it's not completely fair, you find a deeper understanding. Day 61, November 7, 1918. Here is what happens. Newspaper around the US publish in blazing, black, and thick-block print the following headline on the front page: THE WAR IS OVER! Uh. Nope. Turns out it was a false … [Read more...]

Working Paper: The Second Month, Weeks 5-8, Today In 1918

lung samples, 1918 Week 5 (Days 29-36, Oct 6-13, 1918) From bad to worse. There is always a worse, and there is always a worst. The worse you feel in real time, in the present, and the worst is best known in hindsight, looking back. No matter, the worse and worst is the stage with the most extreme point of trouble, problems, and difficulties. The bad comes with the worse. For 1918's … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 59

Later in life, little Charlie Long A river has a surface. That is its highest level. A river also has a bottom. The surface water runs along it, above it, over it. The water at the top and the water at the bottom are almost two different worlds. One man rides the river's surface. In the darkness below two families struggle along the river's bottom. This is a Day 59 like no other. The 59th … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 57

Dr. Roy Flannagan, shown right An eight-year old girl with dark, round eyes thought she heard some good news. Finally. Her parents seem excited. They are very political, active and full of opinions. That's OK in peacetime but here...sometimes politics can kill you. The young girl stares at her parents and brother and sister. She's searching for any sign that today's news will, in fact, prove … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 56

A tough place for a decision Perched on the fence with a strong wind blowing. That's what Day 56 feels like, the second day of November 1918. The fence is the issue of re-opening or not, the perch is the indecision over which to do, to stay closed or to end closures, and the wind is the trend of most American communities to stop quarantines, stop the bans on all sorts of public … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 55

Eagle River, Colorado Next time you're by a river, take a minute to stand and watch. Watch closely. The current has currents. Water is on top of water with different depths, bottoms, and barriers. The grade, the banks, the wind, each affects the shape and leaves a mark. There's a lot going on in every river. So, take a minute. Stand. Watch. Closely. There's a lot going on in the River of … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 54

Costumes, 1918 Violet Harris, 15 years old, copes with influenza in her home town of Seattle, Washington, as best she can. While the illness has devastated much of the city, so far no one in her family has died. The Harris family has tried to do their part, to follow the rules, the orders, the laws that seem to pop up day by day to fight the sickness. For Violet, a few of the changes are even … [Read more...]

Learning From the 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 53

The French Lick Hotel, 1918 Blurred, mixed, and ragged. Most of the time you're dealing with lesser evils and shifting boundaries. Sound familiar? Then you're right at home with influenza on Day 53, October 30, 1918. There are places where things are getting worse. The leading newspaper in Idaho informs readers that "stricter rules may be needed to curb influenza." Nearby, the health … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 50

A World War event, Grant Park, Chicago No river runs straight all of the time. The question is the bend—how big, how sharp, how different once the turn is made. You only know by going round. On top of Carter's Mountain in North Carolina, you hear the sound of a hammer hitting a nail. A man makes a coffin. A stack of lumber is nearby, ready material for the second one to be made. Wha-ping. … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 49

Sharp Street Church, near the burial site Influenza, the heartbreak of today. One day before his first wedding anniversary, 20-year old Henry Kulp is buried in Souderton, Pennsylvania. The president of the University of North Carolina, Edward Kidder Graham, dies. It was his dream job as a 1894 grad of the school and its first journalism professor. Two Catholic priests die in Baltimore, … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 48

You get stuck. The things you see around you; the tilt and trend down to now and your memory of the past weeks; the things you're looking to see in the day, days, and week after today; those fixed events already set or expected several weeks or a few months ahead. You're somewhere between all of these states of time, states of being, and states of mind. With so much floating and swirling, you feel … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 47

In Ohio, a temporary hospital. The trends are bad, no matter what they tell you, but that's not the whole story. More to tell, more to know. Day 47, October 24, 1918. Today, people are jumping in, taking action, making a difference in the circles around them. Water on the rock—though pressures from influenza do wear us down, at the same time they reveal beauty, worth, and essence. As tidal … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 46

Camp Custer, October 1918 The future is like the sun. Stare at it and your eyes go bad. Now well into the sixth week, Day 46, and Americans are looking forward, sizing up the shapes and objects ahead. They hope to see an edge sharpen to an end and a line drawn for a beginning. But it's hard to really see much. The only thing visible is a blinding light. And looking longer doesn't help. In … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 45

A truckload of coffins for influenza fatalities Through the gray cloud of influenza a flash of light is seen on October 22, 1918, Day 45 of the pandemic. Dr. Edward Rosenow is 43 years old and has for some time been regarded as brilliant in his field of medical research, a producer of "monumental work" as one person put it. A few weeks before influenza's outbreak at Fort Devens, … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 44

Sanitation workers, Chicago Climb the ladder, from bottom to top. Influenza waits at every rung. From one family. A Polish family lives in Winona, Minnesota. A doctor visits their home and is shocked at the sight—both parents and all ten of their children suffer from influenza today. The doctor looks around the house and sees next to nothing of anything. Little food, few household goods, … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 43

Joseph Fuccy belonged to this team All sorts of horse races were up in the air on the forty-third day since hell bolted free at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. There was the natural kind. The horses expected to run at Pimlico Race Track near Baltimore, Maryland were still in their stalls. Race officials in Maryland and at Pimlico were going back-and-forth about holding races. For now, they had … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 42

Dr. White's workplace When can it become just too much? One of the too-much times can be when a bad thing you didn't expect joins the bad thing you're already coping with. And the more sudden, the more jolting the second bad thing is...well, it can be very hard to absorb. That's the start of Day 42 in the home called Place. He is Homer. She is Bertha. They're the Places, Mr and Mrs … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 41

Navy Building, Washington DC In their locations, they were a half-mile apart at most. In their hierarchies of work, they were a universe apart at least. Nonetheless, on the 41st day since influenza began to rip apart Fort Devens, Massachusetts, they were joined in a life of pandemic whether they knew it or not. October 18, 1918. The Native American typist named Lutiant Van Wert or Luciant … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 40

Through The Looking Glass A hand held a pen. Ink on the tip. A few dashing strokes crossed out a word here, inserted a word there. The writer stared at the sheet, then stopped for the day. Almost ready as a book, almost finished as a story, almost born as a warning that, sadly, will never need to die. "I'll believe in you, if you'll believe in me. Is that a bargain?" In 1871 so said the … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 39

Mail carrier In New York City, on the 39th day since the outbreak at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, begins October 16, 1918. A mail carrier walks down the street with a mask on his face. An office worker sits at her desk, typing a letter and wearing a mask on her face. Across the city, if the reports are accurate, more than 400 people die today of influenza or a related illness. And the hard … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 38

On Day 38, October 15, 1918, the heat turns up. Inside the pot, steam rises, water boils, and something turns over and over. At the town of Verdun on the banks of the Meuse River, a group of boys-boiled-men follows Captain Harry Truman back into combat. They've been away from the fighting Germans for a bit. Their enemy for some days was the sickness, influenza, that is killing as many as the … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 36

Fatalaties per 100,000 due to influenza, Minneapolis and St. Paul, to October 13, 1918 Far north. Far south. A young couple in love and a couple of perspectives on the day. Let's take them in turn and a few others in between. Day 36, October 13, 1918. Minneapolis and St. Paul are side-by-side in Minnesota. Together, today, the two cities reel from the misery of influenza. It's the … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 35

Young influenza patients in an Oklahoma City Hospital, 1918 Is it normal? Hell no. Is it abnormal? Way beyond that. Well, then, what is it? I don't really know other than to say it's massive. Truer words were never spoken, written, thought, or felt. Day 35, October 12, 1918. You can't really know. That's the reality in Philadelphia when 837 people die today. Or when the city of … [Read more...]

Working Paper: Today In 1918, First Month

Influenza Epidemic 1918 - Policemen in Seattle, Washington, wearing masks made by the Seattle Chapter of the Red Cross, during the influenza epidemic. (National Archives) This is your summary of the first 28 days of my Today In 1918 series. I offer it as a higher-level look with closing thoughts on ramifications for you. Estimated reading time: 20-40 minutes. Contact me if you wish to discuss … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 33

"Entire Country In Grip Of Flu and Pneumonia." That's the headline in a newspaper in an American city on Day 33. Dead accurate, you might say. Everywhere you look things are upside down on October 10, 1918. Illness, suffering, decline, recovery, death, and sometimes none of these. Fears, doubts. And you're not supposed to meet in groups, not supposed to shop, not supposed to spit, not supposed … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 32

Madam CJ Walker 32 days. It's generally thought that it takes 32 days to form a habit. From pronouncement to reality, 32 days have to tick by before you can say a New Year's Resolution is now part of your daily living. It took something else 32 days to make a change. 32 days since influenza slipped into Fort Devens, Massachusetts and the daily life of the American nation is numbingly … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 31

High above the prairie, storm clouds fly in the night. Blown by air unusually warm for the second week of October, dark forms race through the sky. Rain is in the black air. It is a witching hour, well before the tilt and turn of the earth brings another dawn. On the prairie is a camp. Hundreds of buildings are silent and dark. Barns, barracks, quarters, and storehouses, not a person stirs … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 29

Hoarding, 1918-style Crisis comes and goes at different times for different people. You have a sense that often tells you when it has arrived or departed. You can know it. The arrival of crisis is known today in Cincinnati, Ohio. It's Day 29, October 6, 1918, and the city shuts down. Just about everything closes until someone in a position of authority decides otherwise. People across … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 28

Seattle Mayor Ole Hanson, 1918 Change is a constant but not all constants change overnight. Only some surge, or plunge, to that level. Today, on Day 28, overnight is now and lasts for a full twenty-four hours on October 5, 1918. Overnight, a ban on all indoor public gatherings begins in Seattle, Washington. Mayor Ole Hanson declares that the only public gatherings allowed will be those … [Read more...]

The Shadow Of Late Winter

On January 24 I wrote my first post to a closed group of Alumni about Covid-19 and its likely importance for your personal leadership. On March 5 I found lessons from 1918 and shared them in the post below (which I've reproduced here). It was for my followers on LinkedIn. It seems to me that it hit and still hits the mark. So, I'll ask you now, standing a few days ahead of Easter and spring all … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 27

The crater of October 4 Life never stops, not in its variety or surprises or challenges. Today, Day 27, October 4, 1918, the earth shudders around the town of Morgan, New Jersey. Martial law is declared. People fear for their lives and safety. Survival is the question, and no one knows for certain. Life gets a vote. One of the largest non-nuclear explosions in American history rips … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 26

Telegraph machine, a better Twitter This guy has the perfect name for Day 26, that's for sure. Dr. Benjamin Franklin Royer sits in his office in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The sign on his desk reads: "Pennsylvania State Health Commissioner." During a fast-flowing 26th Day of influenza, Dr. Royer directs his assistant to type a message. In a few minutes the message will be converted into a … [Read more...]

Learning From The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Day 25

An Ohio newspaper, October 2, 1918 October 2, 1918, the 25th day of influenza after its appearance at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. There is a feeling that the worst is here and that the worst is headed somewhere. Deaths and cases roll into new areas across the nation—in Camp Gordon, Atlanta, Georgia; Red Cloud, Nebraska; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and the Naval Training Station at the … [Read more...]