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Chicago (America) Shall Rise Again

America — like Chicago in 1870’s — shall rise again.

The Chicago fire went on for over 24 hours. It demolished ⅓ of the fifth largest American city at the time, and killed hundreds, leaving countless people homeless. The fire tore through 73 miles of street. 

Despite all that, citizens uttered the famous words, “Chicago Shall Rise Again”.

At the time, Chicago was experiencing an abnormal lack of rain – roughly ¼ of what the city normally received, making the buildings dry and prone to fires.

There was often only a small fire resistant layer on the outside (of buildings) that only provided a small level of protection.

Still, facing adversity, Chicagoans quickly demonstrated their resolve and determination to rise again. They dusted off the ashes and soot and worked to quickly overcome the problem.

Rev. Robert Collyer spoke to his Unitarian congregation outside the ruins of Unity Church on Dearborn Street.

“We have not lost, first, our geography. Nature called the lakes, the forests, the prairies together in convention long before we were born, and they decided that on this spot a great city would be built.”

In a year’s time, that steadfast determination ensured the church was rebuilt.

Changes were made: Building codes were modified. New laws were established requiring the use fireproof building materials.

It wasn’t the easiest path, and along the way to recovery there were two big setbacks — a bank that failed with reverberations throughout the financial system, and a second fire that destroyed 800 buildings in 1874— a few years after the fire.

But from these setbacks came innovation.

Chicago established itself as a leader in banking because of the lending and money required for the rebuilding.

Terra-cotta clay resulted in a material that was terrifically fireproof– eventually widespread use in Chicago enabled the city to be one of the most fireproof.

Today

America had our own “Fire of 1871” that sprang upon us like we never could have imagined.

The novel coronavirus jumped from one place to the next quickly engulfing the ill prepared country.

This wild fire took off – one main reason was the complete inadequacy of foundational public health throughout the country. Without a foundation and focus on health, a country will inevitably face some sort of health crisis.

Over half of Americans are obese – a number that has increased by over 25 percent every year since 2008.

Most public health departments were understaffed, overworked, and received little to no public support or emphasis

Materials and Protective Equipment (PE) were almost entirely made overseas, especially in China, that disrupted any quick response to follow basic public health guidelines of wearing masks, sanitizing, and others.

Health outcomes that pale in comparison to other developed nations, despite the amount we spend on healthcare – roughly 20 percent of the entire Gross Domestic Product, according to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS). That’s 20 cents on every dollar. That’s $12,530 per person. Astonishing.

The foundation for America to withstand such contagious fire was missing. The country was in the same condition as Chicago when it received a fraction of the typical rainfall: America’s public health system was drier than the Sahara with kindling omnipresent awaiting a single spark.

Rebirth doesn’t always come easy: Chicago faced two distinct and major challenges along the way to recovery – financial system becoming defunct, and another major fire less than two years later.

America has faced two dramatic attacks after the initial attack. The first was the wave of Delta that knocked the country back on its heels right when people were starting to have optimism that we were close to surviving the “worst of it”. The second is now the Omicron debacle that could possibly be compared to the second fire in Chicago.

Not only is the actual damage done the second time around demoralizing, it spreads another level of distress and anger. It makes people think there will never be better days ahead.  It tunnels the direction and general psyche of a nation where we least need it. Just as Chicago was able to forge ahead in spite of two dramatic setbacks after the initial fire, America is and shall rally together to get past recent setback; regardless of the severity of Omicron strain.

This is the country that is the land of the free, home of the brave.

We need to embrace our freedom with the ability that we, indeed, do have the freewill to choose a better path forward, one where we can more safely assemble with friends, family, and have some sort of resemblance of a life we strive to have.

In the face of one of the world’s longest pandemics, with two major virus strains, the American ingenuity and bravery shall shine.