Discussion of our November Issue

Feedback from our readers

Smithsonian Magazine

From the Editors Readers flooded Facebook responding to our November package of articles “The Next Pandemic.” Many weighed in on “Viral Stories,” which asked why so few novels tackled the devastating 1918 influenza epidemic. “With war, we console ourselves with dramatic heroism and existential realizations in the face of death,” Susan M. Morris wrote. “But no one is heroic when dying of the flu.” Paul Hafemann cited a different view: “One survivor of the 1918 outbreak told me that people simply viewed it as another part of the larger WWI experience, along with the death, misery and destruction.” Dale Keifer pointed to another theory: “The outbreak was so traumatic, the nation suffered a collective memory repression in response.”

This month, all comments are from our Facebook page, unless otherwise noted.

An Epidemic of Memories

My grandfather was a near-victim of the 1918 outbreak (“Journal of the Plague Year”). Mistaken for dead, he was covered and placed near other bodies when he managed to blow the sheet off his face. An orderly saw and put him back with the patients, where he recovered.

Anita Descault 

My grandmother, who was in her 20s and lost her closest friend during the 1918 influenza epidemic, remembered a song children would sing: “I had a little bird, its name was Enza, I opened up the window and IN-FLU-ENZA!”

Greg Jarrell

My great-great-grandfather would deliver food to ill neighbors. He would place the meals on the doorstep and knock until someone leaned out a window to indicate that everyone was still alive.

Cynthia Morris

This is why history is so important. It is a great teacher that can lead to understanding ourselves and directing our future. These events changed modern medicine and society forever. Thank you.

EvaBeth Newby

I am a 2009 H1N1 survivor. Eight years ago, I was slowly coming out of my coma. I nearly died twice. If I had had access to a vaccine, I would have likely not gone into respiratory failure. A universal flu vaccine (“How to Stop a Lethal Virus”) would be great.

Mary Kay Radnich

Thank you for doing this series of articles which will help increase awareness of the importance of public health practices and vaccination against preventable diseases.

Anne Egan Mastrototaro

Vanishing Porpoises

I think a bigger effort is needed to save these precious vaquitas (“Ballad of the Last Porpoise”) from the negligence of humans.

Martin Rosales

Signing Off on History

Regarding “Bold Stroke,” about President Ulysses Grant’s signing of the 15th Amendment, Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton said it best: “The pen is mightier than the sword.”

Jason Hayes

Actress and Inventor

Hedy Lamarr (“Hollywood’s Secret Weapon”) was incredible in a time when women were supposed to stand silently behind a man. She was leagues ahead of most men in science.

Rebecca McAlary

Hedy Lamarr was so beautiful, smart and talented. I’m glad she made her life the way she wanted it. She played warm and witty romantic leads and cold, calculating villains with equal aplomb.

Cynthia Schmidt

Trauma and Theater

Jeff MacGregor’s “Theater of War” was as well written and moving as anything I’ve seen in your pages. I truly hope Bryan Doerries’ efforts find broad support. Just one quibble: MacGregor said we’ve been at war for 16 years. After the Gulf War ended in 1991, the Air Force resumed near daily armed missions over portions of Iraq (and elsewhere) in 1992, or 25 years ago.

George Cully, Montgomery, Alabama

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