Over the weekend I read an editorial that really made me think. Mary Schmich of the Chicago Tribune, who has probably seen or at least heard about a lot of social unrest in Chicago, wrote, “Is 2020 really the worst year ever?” She decided it isn’t.
She cited other years that were probably worse, mentioning the year 536 as an example. A devastating volcanic eruption that year caused weather havoc. She mentions the years of the Spanish Flu that began in 1918 immediately following World War I. The flu in 1918 killed 3.5% of the world’s population. Up to 50,000,000 people died. It’s still considered the world’s worst pandemic. By comparison, COVID deaths stands at 812,513 as of today according to worldometers.info. As I watched, the number jumped to 814,797. nbcnews.com says only that, “More than 800,000 have died….worldwide.”
1811 was not such a great year. The earthquakes of 1811 and beyond on the New Madrid fault in Missouri’s Bootheel caused darkness for a long time, bad smelling air, difficulties breathing, and crop failure issues for many years. The first major quake occurred in December, 1811 and was followed by several more. The President at the time James Madison and his wife Dolly reported feeling the 1811 quake in the White House. Church bells in Boston rang. I didn’t know until today that the state of Tennessee was far more affected than Missouri. So was Kentucky. There were 3 big earthquakes. The 2nd occurred in January, 1812. Considered the mildest of the 3 majors, it was estimated to be a 7.5 seismic event using current measures. The one in February, 1812, was said to be as bad as the December quake. An earthquake rumor at the beginning of this century was taken very seriously. Lots of Missourians stocked up on batteries and food.
Mary Schmich mentions the Great Depression. 1932 and 1968 were not great years. She concluded that we should substitute the word “strange” for “worst” and reported that “…if pressed, a lot of people would acknowledge that this isn’t the worst year of their lives.” I agree. She went on to remind us that this year isn’t over yet.
Another article I just read said that the number of COVID Asian-American deaths is underreported. Analysis of this pandemic with new and corrected revelations will go on for years.