Because of the isolated nature of quarantine, the 1918 pandemic was suffered largely in private. Unable to lean on their friends and neighbors for support, people experienced the crisis alone in houses with shuttered windows. “I stayed in all day and didn’t even go to Rena’s,” Harris wrote in her diary. “Mama doesn’t want us to go around more than we need to.”

These individual feelings of loneliness compounded, in some cases eroding once-strong community bonds. “People were actually afraid to talk to one another,” said Daniel Tonkel, an influenza survivor, during a 1997 interview for PBS’s American Experience. “It was almost like Don’t breathe in my face; don’t look at me and breathe in my face, because you may give me the germ that I don’t want, and you never knew from day to day who was going to be next on the death list.”

John M. Barry, the author of The Great Influenza, told me that feelings of loneliness during the pandemic were worsened by fear and mistrust, particularly in places where officials tried to hide the truth of the influenza from the public. “Society is largely based on trust when you get right down to it, and without that there’s an alienation that works its way through the fabric of society,” he said. “When you had nobody to turn to, you had only yourself.” In his book, Barry details reports of families starving to death because other people were too scared to bring them food. This happened not only in cities but also in rural communities, he told me, “places where you would expect community and family and neighborly feeling to be strong enough to overcome that.” In an interview in 1980, Glenn Hollar described the way the flu frayed social ties in his North Carolina hometown. “People would come up and look in your window and holler and see if you was still alive, is about all,” he said. “They wouldn’t come in.”