Friday, October 3, 2014

Ebola and those little tombstones

Out by me way out in the cornfields is a cemetery. It is one of those country cemeteries you drive by and think what is that doing out here in the middle of nowhere? But of course there used to be farm towns and this where they went with their dead. And if you go to the cemetery you will see many old tombstones from the nineteenth century and many from the early part of the twentieth century. And then  you will see very small tombstones.

And the dates on these stones are 1915, 1916, 1917. And they were all children. Many dying before they were ten and you realize in that silent cemetery that these are from the last epidemic. The Spanish Flu or Influenza epidemic that killed millions in the early years of the last century. And of course many of the victims were children. And like Ebola the Spanish Flu inspired terror and people were quarantined and the army was brought in.

And there was a point where the Surgeon General said he didn't know what to do. He said he thought society might unravel because people would not congregate and cities were beginning to cease to function. Then the epidemic receded. Not because of anything we did but it had killed all the people it  could and those left had immunity. We have lived in the shadow of Influenza returning ever since.

And with Ebola it is the long shadow of those tiny headstones that strikes fear in the human soul. The question was always not if the Spanish Flu would return, but when. Ebola hits all the chords.

Books by William Hazelgrove