When a natural disaster, pandemic, war, or other crisis occurs, the Americans have responded with kindness, turning both civilians and notables into heroes.
According to Rebecca Solnit, author of A paradise built in hell: The extraordinary communities that arise in the event of a disaster, the vast majority of people remain calm, resourceful and selfless when helping others in times of crisis. “We are wonderfully improvising the conditions for survival,” she said. Time magazine. “People run away from each other. They build shelters and community kitchens and cope with lost children and end up rebuilding in one way or another. ”
Here are 12 examples of little acts of kindness that made a big difference in the most difficult times.
american civil war
Towards the end of the four-year American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln spent time visiting wounded soldiers at the Depot Field Hospital along the Richmond-Petersburg front, shaking hands with almost everyone world over there, writes Noah Andre Trudeau in Lincoln’s greatest journey: Sixteen days that changed presidency. In a tent, according to Trudeau, was Harry L. Benbow, a Confederate officer captured at Five Forks. As Lincoln reached out, Benbow told him he was offering it to “a Confederate colonel, who fought you as hard as he could for four years”. “Well,” said Lincoln, “I hope a Confederate colonel won’t refuse me his hand.” “No sir,” I replied, “I won’t do it,” and I shook his hand in both mine. ”
READ MORE: Abraham Lincoln
The national smallpox epidemic killed between 4,000 and 5,600 Americans from 1897 to 1903. In 1901, according to the Times Reporter in New Philadelphia, Ohio, he hit the Robinson family in Mineral City, Ohio. The parents, six children and their belongings were quarantined on a farm outside the city for months, during which time four of the children died.
“Their doctor, Dr. William Willigman of Mineral City, has also been quarantined, living in a tent outside the house while meeting their daily medical needs,” the newspaper reports. As the surviving family finally recovered and Willigman was able to return home, as a precaution, all of the family’s property, including their clothes, was burned. Released from quarantine, the Robinsons moved into a house belonging to Tuscarawas Coal and Iron Co.
“A new complete set of household furniture and utensils was given to them by the Health Council, and a generous supply of clothing was given by the people of the community”, Mineral pointer newspaper reported at the time.
READ MORE: How an African Boston slave helped save generations of smallpox
1906 earthquake in San Francisco
Following the disastrous earthquake and fires that left 3,000 dead and half the city’s homeless, a woman named Anna Amelia Holshouser was forced to camp with a friend, eventually settling in the Golden Gate Park, according to Solnit. A paradise built in hell. There, writes Solnit, Holshouser made a makeshift tent out of fabric that housed 22 people, many of whom were children, and started a little soup kitchen that quickly grew to feed 200 to 300 people a day.
READ MORE: 1906 earthquake in San Francisco
The Spanish flu of 1918
With a third of the world’s population infected during the 1918 pandemic, 50 to 100 million people, including some 675,000 Americans, have died. Philidelphia was one of the most affected cities in the United States in terms of mortality, with all the beds in the city’s 31 hospitals being filled, according to the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.
Nurses from the Visiting Nurse Society of Philadelphia made home visits, treating 20 to 30 cases a day, many of whom were families. “… In a cradle next to the mother’s bed was a six-week-old baby who hadn’t been bathed in four days and who was wet and cold,” reads an annual report from the company. “… The family had no coal, and the three healthy children were shaking and hungry. The nurse treated the sick, bathed and fed the baby. She made a wood fire in the stove and prepared food for the other children. She then found a good neighbor to continue looking after the children. “
READ MORE: How American cities tried to stop the spread of the 1918 Spanish flu
Johnstown flood in 1889
When heavy rains caused the failure of a dam in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a 70-foot-high wave destroyed everything in its path for 14 miles. In the end, 2,200 people – one in 10 of the city’s population – died. According to the Johnstown Area Heritage Association, the American Red Cross’s first major peacetime relief effort by the American Red Cross, and Americans in the country and around the world responded quickly.
“In Paris, Buffalo Bill Cody granted a profit to the flood fund on June 13,” notes the association. “Charity also included food and all kinds of products: Cincinnati sent 20,000 pounds of ham and prisoners at Western Pittsburgh Penitentiary made 1,000 loaves of bread a day. The Standard Oil Company has shipped a shipment of kerosene to Johnstown. This vast flow of goods continued for months. When accounting was attempted, it was estimated that 1,408 full freight cars, weighing 17,000,000 pounds, had been shipped to Johnstown. “
READ MORE: How America’s Most Powerful Men Caused America’s Deadliest Flood
Galveston, Texas Hurricane of 1900
WATCH: the deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history
Considered the worst hurricane in U.S. history, Category 4 Hurricane Galveston of 1900 killed up to 12,000 people – one in six – destroying 3,600 homes and decimating almost the entire city, which, at the time, was the most advanced city in the state.
One hero who emerged during the storm was Mother Mary Joseph Dallmer. According to The Texas State Historical Association, the Ursuline nun, elected superior in 1891, opened the doors of the Ursuline Academy to more than 1,000 refugees, “in black and white, to calm their terror and respond to their needs”. The sisters, who risked their lives to save people from the floods, were ordered by Mother Marie-Joseph “to strip the convent of sheets and to give up their own cupboards to dress the refugees, and to share the food saved by the tidal wave, ”declares the association.
The Houston Post, in a story reprinted on a national scale, wrote at the time: “A terrible disaster like that of September 8 brings out all that is in a human being … and when all the most noble attributes … are highlighted in a single individual, and that a woman, the simple words become too weak … to do her honor. Such a woman is Mother Marie Joseph. She is the heroine of the storm. “
The Second World War
Even in wartime, the “enemy” can surprise you. the Register of Monks reports that Iowan Elmer “Curly” Richardson, enlisted by the United States Army in 1944 and assigned to the 12th Infantry 4th Division, was a sergeant leading his troops to the Battle of the Bulge in the Hurtgen Forest on the Belgian-German border when his Jeep was ambushed by Germans and shot in the stomach and eventually captured.
“Elmer ended up on the operating table of a German doctor named Ludwig Gruber,” writes the newspaper. “Elmer should have died. He was an enemy fighter and was not entitled to the same care and comfort as an injured German, or at least that is what the hospital commanders told Ludwig. Ludwig ignored them. ”
While he was healing under the care of Gruber, an American army captain arrived under a truce. According to Register, the captain met Richardson and negotiated with the Germans, agreeing that the Americans would stop a planned bombing of the area if the Germans stopped parking their military vehicles there.
“How many lives have been saved because Dr. Gruber made my father stay an extra week?” Steve Richardson, Elmer’s son, told Register. “We will never know.” Men continued to correspond after the war.
The September 11 attacks
WATCH: New Yorkers remember September 11
James Audiffred, a World Trade Center elevator operator who died in the September 11 attacks, loved Maine’s lighthouses, spending his last five summer vacations with his wife, Robin, in Pine Tree State, according to The New York Times. After reading on Audiffred online and wanting to donate to an unknown victim, Carolyn and Gary Brouillard, owners of Dennett’s Wharf in Castine, Maine, decided to donate the dollar bills they had stuck on ceiling of their lobster restaurant for 11 years at The Family of Man in Brooklyn. Robin Audiffred received a check for $ 12,313 from Les Brouillards.
“They did not know that Mr. Audiffred was in love with Maine lighthouses – not to mention Maine lobsters,” reports the newspaper. “A complete surprise,” said Gary Brouillard to Time. “A total surprise.”
READ MORE: 9/11 Lost and Found: Objects Left Behind
Hurricane Katrina, 2005
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When Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and the east coast of the Gulf of Mexico, killing 1,800 people, hundreds of volunteers, later nicknamed the Louisiana Cajun Navy, rallied to save more than 10,000 people stranded and taken trapped by flood water.
“They announced:” Everyone wants to help the people of New Orleans come to the Acadiana shopping center, “Louisiana journalist Trent Angers told CBS News. “They were expecting 24, 25 boats. Between 350 and 400 boats and people showed up.”
Invited by the authorities to stay away, the boaters were provocative. “You have seen people in New Orleans walking in the chest with all their belongings floating in a plastic trash can, and you look at it and think it is in our country, and in our case, it is two hours down the road, “volunteer David Spizale told the network. “So we had a hard time not getting into action. This is where we wanted to be.”
Hurricane Harvey, 2017
In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Nick Sheridan, along with two other truck drivers, drove their trailers for about 200 miles and rescued more than 1,000 people, according to ABC News. “I have been in this civil servant role all my life, but being alone has given me the opportunity to go where they needed me rather than being stationed for work. direct traffic around the corner or something like that, “veteran said” Good Morning America “. “I was able to put my equipment to good use here as an independent lifeguard.” Sheridan also posted on their Facebook page that the trio had saved 50 dogs – they adopted two.
Hurricane Maria, 2017
More than 3,000 people died from the Category 5 hurricane that ravaged the United States of Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and Dominica, causing $ 90 billion in damage in Puerto Rico alone. But the New york times reported, “little kindnesses came daily.”
Neighbors who deliver bottles of water, ice and lanterns to babysitting teachers who cross washed roads to visit students. “In Humacao, a municipality on the east shore where Hurricane Maria broke sturdy trees in half like pretzel sticks and flooded entire neighborhoods, teachers showed up at school the next day, unwittingly”, reported the newspaper. “Fallen trees covered the courtyard. Mud covers the corridors and the classrooms. They put on gloves and started carrying branches. Ultimately, cafeteria workers served thousands of meals for the housebound and others at Humacao. “
When the NBA season was suspended due to the pandemic, players and owners announced that they would be helping workers who lose their income during the break. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton of the Milwaukee Bucks each pledged $ 100,000 to the arena staff.
“It’s bigger than basketball!” Anteokounmpo tweeted. Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans promised on Instagram to pay the staff of the Smoothie King Center for 30 days. Detroit Piston Blake Griffin and Cleveland Cavalier Kevin Love have both pledged $ 100,000 to their arena workers, while owners, coaches and players of the Golden State Warriors pledged $ 1 million to a relief fund disaster. Utah Jazz Rudy Gobert, the first NBA player diagnosed with COVID-19, announced that he was donating $ 500,000 to the cause, including $ 200,000 for part-time employees of Vivint Smart Home Arena.