It happened before. “Influenza 1918,” the powerful look by PBS’s “American Experience” series at the last great pandemic, notes that this cataclysmic national event was very rarely addressed in subsequent decades in the creative arts.
It, too, was responsible for more than 600,000 American deaths in a relative flash of virality, and it was perhaps even more horrific for tending to favor people in their 20s as its targets.
Yet, says the program’s narrator, “as soon as the dying stopped, the forgetting began.” An epidemiologist surmises that it was just “so awful, so frightening” that people essentially erased it from memory.
A century later, we get a terrible do-over. Will we, too, roar through the ’20s, blithe and seemingly blindered? Or will we recognize and honor what was lost?
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