On September 28, 1918, hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Philadelphia to watch a patriotic spectacle. But the Freedom Loan Parade, which was supposed to promote government bonds that would help pay for the Allied cause in World War I, had an unwelcome guest: the flu.
Within 72 hours, district hospitals overflowed with flu patients. Within weeks, nearly 13,000 were dead. Today, historians blame a packed parade for the spread of a devastating flu epidemic in the city. (Globally, around 500 million people have been infected and at least 50 million have died in the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)
The reverberations from this deadly event will be heard on Saturday when the parade of the spectacle takes place. on the streets of Philadelphia.
The parade launches "Spit Spread Death," a new exhibit and project from the Museum of the College of Doctors in Philadelphia at Philadelphia on October 17. which specializes in immersive, interactive media installations.
The public will be a key part of the parade. People can register as representatives of patients marching in honor of individual flu victims who died in Philadelphia on the deadliest day of the pandemic. The names of all 751 of those victims will be recalled during the world premiere of choir music composed by Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lang and sung by Crossing-winning Grammy-winning Philadelphia Choir.
While the music is being played by participants' cell phones, each patient representative will switch between two illuminated 20-foot floats alone at the time of remembrance.
The grim spectacle is intended to reflect the historical losses and the all-too-modern health crisis. According to the CDC, 49 million people in the United States were infected with the flu in 2018 alone. About 79,000 of those people died. The CDC estimates that 80 percent of flu-related deaths in children occur among children who have not been vaccinated.
At the end of the parade route at Dilworth Park there will be a free event featuring public health information, food and artist comments. Free flu shots are also available.
The parade departs from Marconi Plaza at 18:00. Do you want to march in honor of a flu victim? Visit Spitspreadsdeath.com to choose someone to represent. You can choose by name, age, neighborhood or profession or leave the website to choose on your behalf. Participants can also choose at parade time, although names may be limited or simply viewed from the sidelines.