City Journal Winter 2014

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Winter 2014
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Paul Beston
Ye Blizzard Men and Ladies « Back to Story

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As a consequence of the 1888 storm, all of the electric transmission cables were placed underground. Not a bad thing.
By way of comparison: the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic at its peak killed 500 New Yorkers a day.

That virus kills by generating a super-strong overreaction of the body's immune system -- called a "cytokine storm." Young adults are killed more than middle-age adults. (Of course the very young and very old were killed in astonishing numbers -- the peak in the middle of the age spectrum was what astonished the medical community in 1918-1920.)

We could see this again. All it takes is a morbidity rate at 20% -- 1 in 5 as compared to the normal flu death rate at 1 in 1,000. And symptoms that recall hemorrhagic dengue. And no flu shot for it if our public health system fails.

On March 11, 1918, the virus was identified with its first victim in New York City.

95 years ago today.
My family got caught in the 1947 Blizzard.
I lived in Connecticut in 1947; I was a three almost four year old. My father was a great driver, but, as we tried to leave New York to drive back home, even my father could not manage and we had to abandon our auto in New York. My memory is of an awful lot of snow and my father's frustration at not being able to drive.
It is only natural that adversity overcome should leave us a degree of fond memories. If we did not recall such things with satisfaction of a sort, the story would not be told and retold. In the days before writing, the youth would have had to hear it from their elders if they were to have the faintest clue how to withstand such events.

The survivors have learned lessons in the harshest of schools. They themselves can be teachers who do not take such a grim harvest of pupils who slip up.