Philip Kahn passed away more than a century after his brother died in the Spanish Flu pandemic

By Gabrielle Chung
April 22, 2020 08:16 PM
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philip kahn
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A 100-year-old man and his late twin brother, who succumbed to the Spanish Flu over a century ago, have become “pandemic bookends” after passing away last week from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), according to his family.

Philip Kahn — a decorated World War II veteran from Great Neck, N.Y. — passed away in his home on Friday, according to a Facebook post made by Dr. Corey Karlin-Zysman on behalf of Kahn’s grandson, Warren Zysman.

Born in 1919, Kahn never got to know his twin brother as his sibling had succumbed to the Spanish Flu shortly after they were born.

Kahn’s family said the patriarch witnessed many historical milestones in his life. He earned several medals for serving in the Air Force while in Japan and helped build the Twin Towers as an electrical foreman after returning home from the war.

“It is such a blessing to have learned so much from him about the history he lived through and his wisdom which he shared with us through teaching us life lessons,” the Facebook post from the family read. “He has helped shape his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren into very resilient, hard working and loving 🥰 individuals.”

Reflecting on Kahn’s passing, Karlin-Zysman told CBS New York, “Both Philip and his brother were pandemic bookends. His brother having passed from the Spanish Flu and him regrettably having passed from COVID.”

“Knowing that you had a twin that you ultimately never got to know because of a pandemic really affected him,” she added. “He was completely with it at the end. He knew what was going on, and he definitely put two and two together and saw the irony in this.”

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Due to restrictions on large gatherings amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Kahn was laid to rest in a small funeral on Monday.

“He always had a motto that history will always repeat itself, and he knew that there was possibility of a pandemic again,” Zysman told CBS New York. “The one silver lining is that my grandfather will finally have the opportunity to meet his twin brother after 100 years.”

The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 killed more than 50 million people, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Unlike coronavirus, which has proven especially dangerous for older adults and those with underlying conditions, the Spanish Flu killed many healthy people and children younger than 5.

“With no vaccine to protect against influenza infection and no antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections that can be associated with influenza infections, control efforts worldwide were limited to non-pharmaceutical interventions such as isolation, quarantine, good personal hygiene, use of disinfectants, and limitations of public gatherings, which were applied unevenly,” the CDC said on its website.

As of April 22, there have been at least 832,325 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, with 42,353 deaths from coronavirus-related illness.

Worldwide, there are now 2,585,468 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 178,845 deaths.

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