Virtually all large gathering events have been postponed or canceled because of the coronavirus. Cities like Forest City have assembled contingency plans in case the virus makes its’ way into town. These actions have happened before in Forest City, but have we really learned from our past?
The year was 1918 and Forest City was a busy town. Clark Street and other locations flourished during the War to End All Wars known as World War 1. During this time another enemy lurked in the air, influenza that was both deadly and debilitating. Historian and Forest City resident Riley Lewis described the condition.
Camp Dodge in Des Moines endured some of the greatest numbers of tragedies with over 900 soldiers falling ill and dying of the disease. Those soldiers were in training and sometimes confined to close quarters. For other soldiers, the war had come to an end and now they returned home during this time to their families and friends unknowingly transferring a deadly disease.
The flu spread indiscriminately striking households throughout not just Forest City, but Winnebago County and surrounding communities. In some cases, families saw multiple deaths resulting from the Spanish Flu.
Deaths in the area began to mount and this was a warning sign to residents, medical personnel, and city officials that something had to be done.
If history is to repeat itself, it is with the lesson that quarantines and limiting of the transference of the disease may be the best action to stop the spread of the flu.