Seattle Policemen during Spanish Flu Epidemic, December 1918
photo credit: National Archive: Wikimedia-Public Domain, extracted from: 165-WW-269B-25-police
In some ways akin to the personally piercing shaft of memory each of us has for when 9/11 occurred, we will all recall our own instant of realization for the danger that Covid-19 posed.
For us, it was my wife's return from a monthly luncheon with friends very early in March, where no one offered anyone the customary American hug in greeting.
Since then, like many others, we remain homebound.
In 2019, some newspapers were running stories about the centenary of the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918-19. No one guessed then that the world would soon fall victim to the highly infectious and deadly pandemic of COVID-19.
The 1918 Spanish Flu retrospective stories were only highlighted personally because I'd recently discovered that my grandfather had traveled from New Zealand to the west coast of the U.S.A. in mid-1919, to live and work.
Nana and my Dad (aged three) remained in New Zealand for almost a year before joining him, presumably awaiting confidence on the passing of the flu.
A starkly iconic image that I googled showed the U.S. Army 39th regiment, in late 1918, marching down the main street of Seattle in surgical masks, prior to departing for France. Another photo in Seattle (above) showed a group of policemen wearing masks.
Who could guess that we all would soon enough be wearing protective masks, amid unimaginable loss of life and economic disaster.
To state the obvious, this one has changed the world in so many yet-to-be-seen ways, well beyond the initial health and economic impacts. Certainly, we are seeing only the beginnings of how public communication will keep evolving.
In the short run, we see other changes. For example, a former nationwide bakery chain has moved to distributing groceries. At least in the United States, as individual enterprise drives forward new ways to earn a living in the changed world, the competition in many industries will be fierce, even as delivery modes change.
After some trial fits and starts, I believe much education at all levels might be mainly online - for a long time. These concerns will persist, underpinning the more immediate worries about life and death in 2020.
Among the few benefits of the isolation are the increased interactions (remotely) with friends. As one friend put it, some of us have friends "with friends, who are bored," who help ease the isolation by finding and emailing more jokes, cartoons and satire. Many of these are very funny.
A special benefit too is to hear more often from friends who were so often on planes - now safely working from home and emailing great memes!
Much thanks to all! May public and personal communications increasingly thrive.
With warmest wishes - be safe!