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Year One of the New Reality


Roger Benham

One year ago today, the first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus in the U.S. was recorded, in Seattle. Now, a year later, 403,000 Americans have died from it.

In 1918-20, about 600,000 Americans perished in the influenza pandemic. We will likely surpass that grim total by the time we get a handle on this virus.

This is the only memorial I have ever seen to those who died one hundred years ago, although there may be others I don't know about. It's in the Italian immigrants' stonecutters' cemetery in Barre, Vermont. The people who carved these stones knew what it was like to die of preventable respiratory illnesses. They were stonecutters who worked on marble, many of them born in Italy. Some were anarchists.

Their deaths were due to inadequate protections at work, and sacrificing workers to economic expediency. I came to the cemetery, curious about their lives and deaths, and this memorial, with its comparison to the war dead, was unexpected.

I took the photograph in the autumn of 2019, when it all seemed so remote.

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