In 1918, a virus killed more U.S. soldiers than German weapons, and more Americans in a year than the entire Civil War. A full one percent of Johnstowners perished in five months. In December 2020, Cambria became the county with the highest concentration of coronavirus cases nationwide, and the pandemic has claimed 562,000 American victims to date. An upcoming virtual forum on April 20, “We Are All In This Together: The Pandemics of 1918-1919 and 2020-2021,” will explore parallels between the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1919 and the coronavirus pandemic of 2020-2021.
The forum will provide historic context in advance of the premiere of a four-part original film, “We Are All In This Together,” that tells the story of one family in 1918 Cambria City through the perspective of a single woman. The first of the four weekly episodes will premiere virtually on April 22, and will be followed by a discussion with filmmakers.
“The historic parallels between the Spanish flu and the coronavirus pandemics are obvious, and striking,” said Jill Henning of In This Together Cambria. “The film, which was written and directed by Paul Douglas Newman, does a tremendous job of showing the human side of the pandemic while also presenting sound scientific information.”
“Ten UPJ students read 10 months of Johnstown newspapers in 1918-1919 to learn more about the Spanish flu pandemic locally,” Paul Douglas Newman explained. “The messages authorities conveyed back then are really familiar to modern people contending with the coronavirus today: ‘believe science,’ ‘obey the regulations,’ ‘TEAMWORK will defeat the enemies!’ and of course, ‘we are all in this together.’”
The schedule for the events is as follows:
- Tues., April 20 at 7:00 pm: We Are All In This Together: The Pandemics of 1918-1919 and 2021-2022 panel discussion (Zoom, In This Together Cambria Facebook Page)
- Thurs., April 22 at 7:00 pm: The first episode of the “We Are All In This Together” film premieres (ITTC Facebook Page and YouTube channel); discussion with Paul Douglas Newman and others involved on the film at 7:30 pm (Zoom, ITTC Facebook Page).
- Thurs., April 29 at 7:00 pm: “We Are All In This Together,” second episode (ITTC Facebook Page and YouTube channel); discussion at 7:30 pm (Zoom, ITTC Facebook Page),
- Thurs., May 6 at 7:00 pm: “We Are All In This Together,” third episode (ITTC Facebook Page and YouTube channel); discussion at 7:30 pm (Zoom, ITTC Facebook Page).
- Thurs., May 13 at 7:00 pm: “We Are All In This Together,” fourth episode (ITTC Facebook Page and YouTube channel); discussion at 7:30 pm (Zoom, ITTC Facebook Page).
The Zoom link is https://pitt.zoom.us/j/96156145654 ; Facebook Page, www.facebook.com/inthistogethercambria; YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-mdZR2_0soiwIfZQIMxzMg .
More about “We Are All In This Together: The Pandemics of 1918-1919 and 2020-2021” panel discussion
The evening will begin with a slideshow of the research by Paul Douglas Newman and his students into the Spanish flu pandemic locally, and continue with a panel discussion.
Paul Douglas Newman, Ph.D. is a professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, where he has earned several teaching awards, including the national History Channel History Teacher of the Year 2008. He holds a Ph.D. in early American history from the University of Kentucky, and is the author of numerous scholarly articles and books. He is a local writer, filmmaker, and actor of stage, screen, and television ads.
Judith Walzer Leavitt, Ph.D. is professor emerita of medical history and women’s studies at the Department of Medical History and Bioethics at the University of Wisconsin. Her research interests are the history of science, as well as gender and women’s studies. She is the author of Typhoid Mary: Captive to the Public’s Health, Brought to Bed: Childbearing in America, 1750-1950, and several other books. She is also editor of Women and Health in America: Historical Readings, Sickness and Health in America and Readings in the History of Medicine and Public Health.
Jill D. Henning, Ph.D. is an associate professor of Biology at the University of Pittsburgh Johnstown Campus. She has a broad background in immunology, infectious diseases, and cancer biology. In general, her research examines how infectious disease affect humans and animals—a concept referred to as “One Health.” She has divided her research into two specific categories: viral influences on immune function associated with cancer and zoonotic infectious diseases and their vectors. She completed her Ph.D. in infectious diseases microbiology from the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health in 2008. She was a post-doctoral fellow in biobehavioral medicine for a year and joined the faculty at Pitt-Johnstown in 2009.
Chip Minemyer, editor of The Tribune-Democrat, will serve as moderator.
The forum is a partnership of In This Together Cambria, the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, and The Tribune-Democrat.
More about the four-part film series, We Are All In This Together
Paul Douglas Newman used real events and real people to construct a narrative about one family in Cambria City through the perspective of a single woman. His character, Kathleen (O’Creidy) Wissenschaft, led a typical family in Johnstown’s Cambria City, negotiating lockdowns, school and church closings, quarantines, social distancing, mask initiatives, vaccination attempts, and Red Cross volunteer efforts. The character is fictional, but the history is real.
The Johnstown Area Heritage Association allowed the use of the 1860 Wagner-Ritter House for the film’s set. Newman directed the film as part of a film team called Bob Cat Films, with Jason Bolinger as director of photography, and starring actor Kate Davis. The Tribune-Democrat recreated a historic newspaper for use as a prop.
Each episode of the film is around ten minutes long, and the four episodes will air weekly beginning on Thursday, April 15 as outlined above. Bob Cat will also make a single cut, 40-minute film for local release this summer as a public service, and will submit it to film festivals nationally in 2021-2022.
The film is a project of the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, with assistance from ITTC and The Tribune-Democrat.