Why Are There Almost No Memorials to the Flu of 1918?Breaking News
tags: memorials, pandemic, influenza
At Hope Cemetery in Barre, Vt., a five-ton granite bench sits on a triangle of grass. It is a mere five feet high and three feet deep, which seems modest in scale relative to the calamity it commemorates.
“1918 Spanish Flu Memorial” reads an inscription on the front. “Over 50 million deaths worldwide” is chiseled on the back.
Installed two years ago, the bench was underwritten by Brian Zecchinelli and his wife, Karen, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Wayside, a restaurant they own in nearby Montpelier. It opened in 1918, just a few months before influenza scythed through Barre, killing nearly 200 people, the largest loss of life of any town in the state.
One of the dead was Mr. Zecchinelli’s grandfather, Germinio, an Italian immigrant who worked as a craftsman in a local granite factory, one of many in a town that still bills itself as “the granite capital of the world.” Mr. Zecchinelli knew little about his grandfather’s life, which lasted just 35 years, so he spent months researching his death. He quickly became fascinated not just by the flu, but by its near total disappearance from our collective memory.
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