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'It completely changed our family's history': Sisters learn how 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic nearly destroyed their family

The Spanish Flu killed up to 50 million people across the world, including two of their family members.

HOUSTON — For sisters Lori and Beth-Ann, the COVID-19 pandemic is a painful reminder of their own family's story.

"It's a little surreal," Lori Craft said. "I thought to myself recently, 'Dear God, don't let history repeat itself.'"

Long before COVID-19 existed, the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 crippled the country. More than 650,000 were killed in the U.S.

Across the globe, the death toll was an unimaginable 50 million.

"It completely changed our family history, no doubt about that," Beth-Ann Carpenter said.

Lori and Beth-Ann's great grandfather Charles Reid Crotts, a successful businessman in North Carolina, fell ill and died of the Spanish Flu. He was only 38.

"We've grown up knowing this is part of our family history," Beth-Ann said.

Now, in the midst of another pandemic and forced to stay home, the two sisters, with the help of Google and Ancestry.com, dug deeper into uncovering documents. The death certificate and newspaper coverage from 1918 shed light on their family story.

Crott's death crippled a family emotionally and financially. A year later, their great uncle would also succumb to Spanish Flu.

"Some people go from rags to riches, he went from riches to rags," Beth-Ann said.

More than 100 years later, many families are going through the same thing.

"The parallels are very frightening," Lori said. "For us, it's real. It did happen, so I take this a lot more to heart."

But Lori and Beth-Ann point out there's a reason for hope. Despite the blow, their grandfather was only 9 when he lost his father and uncle to the pandemic, but he pushed the family forward.

"I want to share a positive legacy for my children," Beth-Ann said. "That what happened then doesn't have to happen now and when these horrible things do happen we overcome as a nation. We overcome as a family. There's always hope and there's always faith."

They are two sisters with beautiful families of their own and living proof life surges forward after pandemics. That no disease can destroy a family's will to overcome.

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