The Answers Lie Just Beneath The Surface

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Where Do You Stand?

Michael Weaver
Where Do You Stand?

JERSEY COUNTY - It's becoming increasingly clear that people are dividing into two distinct groups. The groups have gradually developed as politics have become downright ugly. Name calling and reprisals just short of what happened 80 years ago on the world stage. Different political views will always exist but nothing in the last 160 years of U.S. history has aligned people and made the differences so obvious and visible.

People who keep a distance and wear a mask. People who do not. Parents who allow their children to socialize. Parents who do not. Stores that are taking steps to minimize exposure of staff and shoppers to an extremely contagious virus. Stores that do not. We see government units that didn't plan or take precautions to mitigate and protect.  Residents that believe it's a media hoax to harm a political target.

The virus attacks every living thing it can in order to replicate. What do you risk by being dismissive? The answer is around us all if we take the time to look. It's been there for a very long time. You don't even need to read a book or look online to see it. It's there just beneath the surface of our everyday lives. It truly is.

I'm old enough to remember the anecdotal stories about people in the family that became sick and died from something caused by a bacteria or virus. It's something that you really didn't think much about because advances in medicine have almost eliminated diseases that killed millions of people. It was only after AIDS started to start killing people that this changed a bit. For many it was something they thought didn't apply to them because they believed it only happened in the gay or IV drug user community. They were wrong. It started infecting people that received blood transfusions or blood products. I personally know of a family that was devastated by HIV because several brothers were hemophiliacs and required clotting factor in order to stay healthy. Not one of them is alive today. HIV is nowhere near as contagious as COVID-19.

According to the Jersey County Health Department, the time from a COVID-19 test until it is reported to them is anywhere from 3 to 10 days. The tests usually originate in a hospital or doctor's office and then samples are sent to either a state or commercial lab for analysis. The health department experience has been that the state lab has had faster turnaround time than have the commercial labs. The health department is notified by the mandated reporters that are bound by law to report the findings. In this instance it is generally the lab making a report, but results can come from a hospital or doctor office. What's important to remember is that a person could be contagious many days before they are tested and the delay in test results means that as many as 3 weeks could pass before knowing if someone has been infected. If the person is not in quarantine, there is no way to know how they spread the infection. Currently there is no database of tested people, only those with a positive result.

There was a time when things were different. People had firsthand knowledge and understanding of  the consequences of becoming ill from transmittable diseases. I'll tell you two stories about people in my own family. I personally met only one of them. I never ever asked questions regarding what they went through. Part of me wishes I had. Part of me knows it would have been exceptionally painful.

Allie Clark grew up in Rosedale. Allie was the oldest of 4 children. She obtained a primary school education and at age 14 was working as a servant for a local family that had a small child. At some point she met William Gilleland. William descended from a long line of Gilleland's residing in Green County. Bill and Allie were married in 1916 with Bill becoming the Fieldon Postmaster on December 9, 1916. Bill claimed an exemption from service to the draft board because he was employed by the postal service and was the sole support for a wife and a 12 day old child. Dorothy Enid had been born on May 24, 1917. On  November 12, 1918, Bill is buried. Dead from the flu.

At the time of her husband's  death, Allie is pregnant. Allie is now a pregnant widow with a small child. William Jr. is born on February 22, 1919. He joins his mother and sister with everyone living at his grandparent's home in Rosedale.

On September 6, 1919, Dorothy dies from the flu.

Where Do You Stand?

In the 1920 census records, Allie is enumerated as a 24 year old daughter living with her parents with Bill Jr. listed as grandson.

I knew parts of this story. What I discovered later is even more tragic. The cemetery that Bill and Dorothy are buried in has a number of Gilleland family graves. Surprisingly it's not far from where I live. I wanted some sort of visual for this story and after finding the headstone, I discovered a great deal more.

Bill had a brother, Cornelius (Neil) that died from the flu and shares the same headstone. Bill, Neil and Dorothy share a common marker. Looking around I see yet another stone with Bill's brother Charles death in 1919. Within just a few yards there is yet another stone showing the death of Abraham Gilleland in 1918. In one cemetery, one family, there are 5 deaths from a worldwide flu pandemic. Over a span of less than 2 years, five family members are dead from the flu.

Where Do You Stand?
Where Do You Stand?

There was a photo that hung in my parent's bedroom. It was of a boy sitting in the fork of a tree. It was originally a black and white snapshot that had been hand colored with oil tints. A pretty and pastel colored image of a young boy in a tree. I knew exactly where the tree was. It was just a few yards away from my Uncle and aunt's side door in Rosewood Heights. Ken and Gladys Rothe's first child Daniel Lee was born on September 28, 1949. That's the boy in the photo. Daniel was known by everyone as "Butchie". As I got older, I heard a few "Butchie" stories. My parents spent a lot of time with him as he spent the night with them frequently.

By all accounts, Butch had a great childhood in a home with two loving and doting parents. It's now 1955 and Butch is ready to start school. He is scheduled to have his first dose of the newly developed Salk polio vaccine in just a few weeks.

Butch started school on September 2, 1955. September 5th was Labor Day and school resumed on the 6th. On Wednesday, Butch didn't feel well and his parents kept him at home. By Friday, Butch had become so ill that he was taken to what is commonly known as St. Anthony's Hospital.

At approximately 3 p.m. on September 10, 1955, Daniel Lee Rothe dies of bulbar polio.

Where Do You Stand?

Once again, I never discussed it with my aunt or uncle. They are both passed away as is everyone else that's referred to in this story. He was always a cousin I never met. Someone who died from a disease I was immune to.

According to many scientific studies and infectious disease doctors, the pandemic we are now fighting is likely to come in waves until such time that a vaccine or drug is developed that is effective against the virus. The only thing that stops the spread of the virus is isolation. While complete isolation is not reasonably possible, what measures are? People that show no sign of disease now can be infecting others. There are not sufficient tests of all types to screen people. There is not enough protective equipment for everyone. We are facing choices that are going to have long term consequences.

What personal responsibility do we have to ourselves and others? Remember that all you need do is visit a cemetery and look at grave markers. The answers are in the people that now lie just beneath the surface. Don't miss their unspoken message.

Where Do You Stand?
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