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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Outbreak (04/07/11)

TITLE: Storms of the Soul
By Charla Diehl


Chicago residents feared for their lives as an outbreak of a deadly disease swept through their neighborhoods. A grim headline told the tragic story of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Tranterís family. It read: Diphtheria Kills 3 in Family; 4 Ill, Doctors Despair of Life of Boy, 9, in Coma

May should be a time of flowers, sunny skies, birds singing and kids anxiously anticipating summer vacation. A time for playing barefoot in their backyards, fishing in the nearby ponds, jumping rope, playing hopscotch on sidewalks, and soaring to the clouds on tire swings hanging gracefully from the arms of sturdy oaks. But for Marie and Ed Tranter who resided at 3029 Elston Avenue in Chicago, the month of May in the year 1938 gave them no reason to rejoice in natures springtime beauty.

Within thirty-six hours Marie and Ed Tranter had lost three of their children. First to die was nine year old Joyce who passed away at home in the quiet darkness at 3:30 a.m., Saturday, May 28th. The doctor who was summoned found that the seven other children were suffering from the highly contagious diphtheria. They were immediately rushed to the hospital. Little Della died at 10 a.m. Sunday at the tender age of two. Within a few hours her brother Jackie, age four, succumbed to the killer disease. Six year old Edward, the only remaining son, was in a coma fighting for his life. Betty Lou, 10, Laverne, 12 and Laura Belle, 8, lay critically ill in their hospital beds unaware that their two sisters and one brother were dead and another brother was at deathís door. The oldest sister, Dolores, 15, miraculously did not contract the disease.

While the health department sought the source of the outbreak, the father and mother waited anxiously at home for word from the hospital from which they were barred.

And so ended the newspaper story which was just the beginning of the epidemic that swept through Chicago in 1938.

As was the practice in those days, clothes, linens and all bedding were burned in order to destroy any lingering germs. Later blood tests determined that Mr. Tranter was the carrier of the disease that claimed the lives of his children. Guilt gnawed at him and festered in his soul.

Employed as a truck driver for Marshall Field and Company in downtown Chicago, he was quarantined at his house unable to work now or even attend the funeral of his two daughters and young son. Filled with unfathomable loss and a heart wracked with pain and grief, Marie walked to her job at the canning factory. As she made her way towards the streetcar tracks she thought of leaping in front of the streetcar when it passed. While she stood there broken and defeated, God cried with her. As the bleakness of the recent hours burdened her tired body and mind, something stirred within her soul. Staring at the tracks, yearning to be released from her misery, she realized her remaining children and hurting husband needed her more than ever before. And with the strength that embraced her, she chose life on that desperate day.

After a lengthy hospital stay, Betty Lou, Laverne, Laura Bell and Edward all returned to their meager home. Their rooms were noticeably emptier as they each longed for the siblings they didnít get to bid goodbye. Life had dealt this family a tough hand, but they persevered together. Over time and with Godís help, their healing began.
Betty Lou became my mother-in-law in 1968 and I thank God for the blessing of this loving and remarkable woman. I was in my twenties when she shared her familyís tragic loss with me. I learned so much from her about parenting and the value of family relationships. She stressed the importance of friendship among her seven children as she nurtured them individually and collectively, instilling in them the values that made them who they are today.

On December 27, 2010 my mother-in-law died after struggling with health issues. Exactly one week later, my father-in-law died from heart problems. And so, I write this in tribute to a generation that knew the importance of family ties, had the strength to meet their problems head on, and realized that God had blessed them immensely through each of their children.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Lillian Rhoades 04/14/11
Thank you for sharing that personal story. What a poignant reminder that storms only last for a while. If we could just get through them, there will be a brighter day.
Carol Penhorwood 04/14/11
There are rainbows after the storm!