How fitting for 2020 — the Queens Chronicle is celebrating our 42nd anniversary with a special history supplement reliving some of the worst events ever to happen here — from devastating transportation accidents to natural disasters, from the ravages of AIDS to the impacts of the Sept. 11 attacks.
But here’s the catch: Just about all of these events led to some improvement in society that made life better for those who survived and those yet to be. Hence the special edition’s name: Triumph over Tragedy. And so we hope it will be — the sooner the better, no question about it — with the ongoing crisis caused by this once-in-a-hundred-years novel coronavirus.
The chapter of human history dealing with the impact of COVID-19 is obviously still being written. Are halfway through it? More? Less? No one knows for sure. Nor does anyone know exactly what life will look like afterward, which of the changes we’ve undergone will stick around and which will suddenly disappear.
We do know those things, at least for the most part, about the select disasters in Queens and New York City history we chose to include in Triumph over Tragedy. We know that the General Slocum ship fire in 1904, which killed more than 1,300 people, helped lead the way toward stronger safety regulations, but not alone — it took other events such as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and the sinking of the Titanic to cumulatively bring about change.
The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 led to countless changes across society; we focus on individuals here in Queens, in the police and fire services.
The AIDS crisis led, eventually, to the development of miraculous drug treatments, but also to the growing acceptance of gay people.
These are just some of the stories you’ll find in Triumph over Tragedy. You’ll also get a couple curve balls — one tragedy averted and one that, well, we call the ’62 Mets. They eventually triumphed. So will we today. As this project reminds us, we always have, after a long road.