Leavitt: We're overdue for a pandemic
In Kentucky, the first influenza cases came in the last the second week, rather, of September as well, in 1918. The first week when it ended the first week ended, they had a thousand cases.
I found a journal of a it was actually an oral history of a man out in Pike County, Kentucky, a little mining town man by the name of Temus Bartlet, a very colorful man, talked about going to visit his brother. These are his words.
"Nearly every porch every porch I'd look at had a casket a- sitting on it. The mines had to be shut down, and there wasn't nary a man there that was working. There wasn't a miner running a lump of coal or running no work. Stayed that way for six weeks." He said later that he saw four or five miners' family die in one night.
This is hard to hear, but it's not a Stephen King novel. This is what happened in 1918.
In Vermont, at a little power company just outside of Montpelier, a man by the name of Frank Eastman recorded in his journal he said he recorded that there were nine men sick. The next day he recorded five more. And two weeks later he used these words: "Carpenter Willie died this morning, and the switchboard operator this afternoon."
It touched hometowns in Illinois. It was Chicago at that point was the second-largest city in our country. It was a hub of a transportation, and obviously the influenza struck there quickly.
It was reported in Chicago on the 27th of September. Within two weeks it was an epidemic throughout the entire state. More than 2,100 residents of Chicago died during the second week of October and 2,300 more the third week. The city ran out of hearses. It put signs up prohibiting any kind of an open-air any kind of a closed funeral and prohibited any more than 10 people to attend a funeral.
It reached hometowns in West Virginia. Charleston had the first cases, seven cases in September, on the 28th, and within two weeks they had more than 2,000 cases. I found the journal of a man in an account, rather, in Martinsburg, West Virginia. There's a fellow there by the name of James Horvet, who was accused of a $40 forgery. They took him to the jail, and he caught the influenza, and on Monday they held his trial. Within three days three of the attorneys who had been in the trial had died. The judge, a clerk and an assistant were all sick, as were their families. It's easy to understand that the courts weren't functioning there, nor were they was the power company in Montpelier, Vermont, functioning, nor was the city functioning in Chicago.
These have profound cascading consequences. Nearly every family had some kind of loss during that period. They knew people who had been lost. We know people who were affected. A story of a young North Carolina mother who passed away; her baby adopted by her parents who moved from North Carolina to West Virginia. The little baby grew up to be Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia. I told that story to Governor Manchin of West Virginia. He said, "My grandfather died of what I heard was the flu. I didn't understand it until now." This wasn't just the flu. This was a killer disease.