By Bobby Ross Jr. | Religion Unplugged
Editor’s note: Every Friday, “Weekend Plug-In” features analysis, insights and top headlines from the world of faith. Got feedback or ideas for this column? Email Bobby Ross Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I thought I knew a little about my family’s history.
I’ve written about my grandfather Lloyd Lee Ross, whose World War II service earned him a Bronze Star Medal and a Purple Heart. Papa died in 2011 at age 93.
I’ve visited the rural West Tennessee cemetery where generations of my relatives — going all the way back to my great-great-great-great-grandfather Daniel Ross (1791-1842) — are buried.
But not until the COVID-19 crisis hit did I learn about the global influenza pandemic of 1918 — known colloquially as the Spanish flu — and my family’s connection to it.
I knew that Papa lost his father when he was a baby. It turns out that my great-grandfather William Charles Ross (1883-1918) died on Nov. 15, 1918, at age 35 from the flu pandemic. Papa, the youngest of William Charles’ five children, was nine days shy of eight months old.
I appreciate my Uncle Chuck educating me on these details from our family’s past.
Given my interest in religion, I am grateful, too, for the journalists digging through newspaper archives to report on how houses of worship responded to the 1918 pandemic, which killed nearly 700,000 in the U.S. and 50 million globally.