2020, or 1920: Which year was worse?

Nina Mendez, Guest Writer

Now, we all know that 2020 wasn’t the ideal year. 

To be honest, it was downright awful. Lots of people were saying it was one of the “worst years ever.”

However, as 2021 gets going, let’s take a look back at how things were 100 years ago. We’re going back to 1920 to see if 2020 really was the worst.

To start, in 1920, we have soldiers returning home from World War One. The “Great War” ended in 1918, but to ensure the demobilization of other countries, many military personnel were released and allowed to return home slowly over the span of about two years. Then, many soldiers, already suffering from physical injuries and trauma, were greeted underwhelmingly and without any recognition for their sacrifices. 

As for how 2020 goes, we have had World War Three scares. Although for most people this was just a funny meme, about three days into 2020, the U.S. authorized an air strike which killed an Iranian Major General. This was after months of increasingly rising tensions between the United States and Iran. With both countries trading shots, many people believed that we were on the brink of the next big war. 

Now back to 1920. In April 1920, the Midwest and Deep South regions of America were hit with an outbreak of tornadoes. About 31 of these were significant and left about 380 people dead and 1,215 injured. These violent storms have been some of the worst tornadoes to hit that area on record. In September of 1920 as well, Louisiana was hit with a hurricane that caused about $1.45 million (1920 USD) in damage and one casualty. 

Then there was 2020. Australia had its first major bushfires in June of the previous year which continued until March 2020. During this time, more than 46 million acres were burned along with 3,500 houses and thousands of other buildings. Thirty-four people were killed. Then, California’s fire season started in mid-February and is still raging. With nearly 4.2 million acres burned, 10,488 structures damaged or destroyed and 31 deaths, California’s wildfire season of 2020 has been the largest recorded in the state’s history. 

Now back to 1920, we have to talk about a deadly pandemic. Although the 1918 flu — known colloquially as the Spanish flu —  started in February 1918, it lasted until April 1920. This influenza has been considered one of the worst pandemics ever. There isn’t much known about this flu’s origins, but in just two years it killed somewhere between 20 to 50 million people. 

It is estimated that about one-third of the world’s population was infected with the virus. The mortality rate was high in people 65 years of age and older, but also with healthy 20-40 year olds. The first vaccine for the flu was finally developed in 1942, nearly 22 years after the pandemic dwindled. 

And now, 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has altered almost every aspect of our daily lives. First detected in Wuhan, China, this virus has spread all over the world. Thanks to quick thinking and proper pandemic precautions, some countries were Covid-free just in time for the holidays. 

Unfortunately, many places around the world are still struggling to fight the virus. At the time of writing this, the worldwide death toll is in the millions. The Covid-19 attacks the lungs of its victims, which leaves them with shortness of breath, a cough, and a fever, among other common symptoms. The virus can also harm the heart and brain. This increases the risk of developing long-term health problems, but doctors are unsure if this will be a common outcome for recovered patients. Two vaccines have already been developed and the mass vaccination of the world has started.

Which year was worse? Well, both 1920 and 2020 absolutely sucked. If we were to top it in 2021, we’d have to start a war with aliens from outer space. 

Here’s to hoping that everything gets better.