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Viewing pandemic, recession and protest through a ‘time warp’

June 5, 2020
In The News

They come every year to the same place, an urban hospital that treats gun trauma and, in 2020, tests for a novel coronavirus. It sits in a census tract where 90% of the residents are black or Hispanic, 40% live in poverty and 15% of the apartments are vacant.

A doctor introduces the speakers, the politicians and mothers of dead children come to mark National Gun Violence Awareness Day. It fell this year on the 52nd anniversary of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy as he celebrated a presidential primary win.

They pledge to remember the dead, to make changes for the living. They did so last year, and most likely will do so the next. It’s what they did Friday, standing outside Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center on Asylum Hill in Hartford.

“The trauma team from Saint Francis vows today to continue to stand with all of you that are affected by this scourge and to add our hopes to yours that one day this scourge will be a footnote to history,” said Dr. Stephanie Montgomery, a trauma surgeon. 

Congressman John B. Larson was there, also thinking about history — the Spanish influenza pandemic, the Great Depression and civil unrest.

“We’re in some kind of time warp, where all of a sudden events of 1918, 1929 and 1968 are all converging together,” Larson said.

He was a 19-year-old aspiring history teacher at Central Connecticut State University in the spring of 1968, when Martin Luther King Jr. was martyred in Memphis, cities burned and America promised change. Larson turns 72 next month, less confident of change.

Congress debated about gun control, civil rights and poverty in 1968, moved by the deaths of King and Kennedy. On the best seller list was the Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorder, a 424-page dissection of the riots that raged through U.S. cities, beginning with Watts in 1965.