This year’s pandemic has brought up for many people the history of the last time the world suffered devastating numbers of deaths from a contagious disease that spread around the world. That was, of course, the 1918 flu pandemic. I grew up on stories of the 1918 flu. My great grandparents in my father’s paternal line, Italian immigrants Francesco and Maria Petrini, both died of influenza on October 9 of that year. They left behind five children, including my grandfather, who had to drop out of school to support his younger sisters. He was 11. While the current pandemic has destroyed lives and upended families, I am struck by the cruelty of that 1918 virus and of a society that provided so little help for the surviving family members.