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12 Times People Confronted a Crisis With Kindness

March 20, 2020 in History

By Lesley Kennedy

From the American Civil War to pandemics to the attacks of 9/11, individuals have responded to emergencies with generosity and grace. Here are some examples.

When a natural disaster, pandemic, war or of other crisis strikes, Americans have reacted with acts of kindness, turning both regular civilians and notables into heroes.

According to Rebecca Solnit, author of . In one tent, according to Trudeau, was Harry L. Benbow, a Confederate officer captured at Five Forks. As Lincoln extended his hand, Benbow told him he was offering it to “a Confederate colonel, who has fought you as hard as he could for four years.” “‘Well,’ said (Lincoln), ‘I hope a Confederate colonel will not refuse me his hand.’ ‘No sir,’ I replied, ‘I will not,’ and I clasped his hand in both mine.”

READ MORE: Abraham Lincoln

Smallpox Outbreak

The nationwide 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, it hit the Robinson family in Mineral City, Ohio. The parents, six kids and their belongings were quarantined in a farmhouse outside of town for months, during which time four of the children died.

“Their physician, Dr. William Willigman of Mineral City, also was placed in quarantine, living in a tent outside the house while attending to their daily medical needs,” the newspaper reports. While the surviving family eventually recovered, and Willigman was able to return home, as a precaution, all the family’s possessions, including their clothing, were burned. Released from quarantine, the Robinsons moved into a home owned by the Tuscarawas Coal and Iron Co.

“A complete new outfit of household furniture and utensils was given them by the Board of Health, and a generous supply of clothing was donated by the people of the community,” the Mineral Pointer newspaper reported at the time.

READ MORE: How an African Slave in Boston Helped Save Generations from Smallpox

San Francisco Earthquake of 1906

The ruins of San Francisco, still smoldering after the 1906 earthquake and the three-day fire that followed it.

Following the disastrous earthquake and subsequent fires that left 3,000 people dead and half of the city’s residents homeless, a woman named Anna Amelia Holshouser was forced to camp out with a friend, eventually setting up at Golden Gate Park, according to Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell. There, Solnit writes, Holshouser made …read more


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