A century, a World War II veteran dies from a coronavirus a century after the flu pandemic killed his twin brother


The twins were born in a world still torn apart by the flu pandemic in December 1919, in New York. Samuel died of the flu a few weeks later. Philip survived.

His life will be shaped by so many historical events in which he will take part in the years to come – flying aircraft during the Second World War, contributing to the construction of the World Trade Center – but this loss always seems to haunt him as badly as what he sees on Iwo Jima, said his grandson.

“It was always the first thing he mentioned before getting into the stories of World War II, before getting into the stories of the World Trade Center. It always has been, “said his grandson, Warren Zysman, who is also a twin, told The Washington Post on Thursday. “He really didn’t know his twin brother, but it was something that weighed on him very psychologically very heavy – he was holding that void, that twin brother with whom he had never known to grow up.”

The two brothers are “pandemic bookends,” as Zysman’s wife Corey Karlin-Zysman put it, closing two tragedies after the long and wonderful life that Kahn lived between them. He was put to rest on Monday after a brief battle with Covid-19 which he fought from his apartment on Long Island. The positive test results came back right after his death, said Zysman.

39-year-old mental health therapist said he was hurt that he couldn’t give his grandfather the huge funeral he had always envisioned, filled with war buddies and all the union guys local electricians with whom he had worked for so many years. . Instead, it was a small military service, his coffin draped with an American flag, followed by only 10 people due to restrictions related to coronaviruses.

But in the absence of a big party, Zysman said that what his grandfather really wanted was for his stories to be remembered. His stories and photographs were his most precious possessions, said his grandson.

Zysman shared them with the Washington Post and others on Thursday in hopes of commemorating the events that shaped his grandfather’s life.

“This is what he wanted,” said Zysman. “For him, it was really about preserving history. “

Philip Kahn was born on December 15, 1919 in Manhattan, the son of an orphaned immigrant father from the United States of Europe at the turn of the century, earning a living as a baker.

Even though Kahn was just a baby during the flu pandemic, he grew up in his shadow because his parents’ grief and the stories they told became his. Raised during the Great Depression, Kahn later enrolled in the Air Force Cadet training program in 1940.

Shortly after, he flew B-29 bombers over Japan.

“There was something about him that was very, very special,” said Sampson Lester Friedman, a veteran who flew planes with Kahn during the war, during a funeral eulogy at his funeral, in a video provided to Post. “On our plane, he was an engineer, and he was the hardest working guy on this plane. “

But the flying bombing missions have taken their toll. In an interview with Newsday for his 98th birthday in 2017, Kahn described how it weighed on him for many years, having witnessed terror and destruction hundreds of meters in the air. He also witnessed a close case: he was almost killed by a trap that exploded a few meters from him on Iwo Jima.

His future wife, Rose, feared he would not be able to go home, he told Newsday. But in 1946 he finally did. They married and were together for 73 years, until his death last summer. They raised two daughters, including Zysman’s mother Lynn. The other, Joyce Laulicht, died a few years ago, said Zysman.

After a brief stint as a talented ice dancer, Kahn worked all his life as an electrician. One of his proudest memories was helping to build the World Trade Center in the late 1960s. He led a large team of workers as an electrical foreman and took a picture from the top of the one of the towers just before the end of construction – another photo he liked to share on every occasion.

This made September 11 all the more difficult to deal with, said Zysman.

“Her level of sadness and tears was something many of us could understand, but it was like a different level,” said Zysman. “It was like something he had spent so many years creating, his blood, his sweat and his tears were no longer there.”

His big family helped him out. Kahn had six grandchildren and six great grandchildren. He was particularly delighted when Zysman and his twin brother were born, said Zysman, as if Kahn had finally been able to experience the bond of the twins by proxy through them. “It was always so special to him,” said Zysman.

He loved to show his 1950s ice dance moves in all of the grandchildren’s bar mitzvahs, said Zysman, and taught everyone how to swim. Zysman said his message to each of them was to put their hearts into everything they do. “Even at 100, he had mastered the art of making things a perfect circle and a perfect heart with my 7 year old daughter,” said Zysman.

Just a few months after celebrating Kahn’s 100th birthday in December, they ceased to be able to visit him once covid-19 began to take its toll.

Zysman said he did not know how his grandfather finally contracted the virus in April, but even before the test, it was clear that he had the symptoms. Her cough got worse. He was sleeping more and more and had trouble breathing.

On the phone, said Zysman, he and Kahn talked about what was going to happen in an uncertain time. He told his grandson that he knew it would not end soon, warning him that “it will change the way people live. The stories of his lost twin have returned, memories of the lasting impact of the pandemic on his family coming back to him.

“He kept repeating to me,” Warren, boy, history repeats itself, “recalls Zysman. “He said,” I lived a long time, 100 years, but 100 years is not long for history. We could have been better prepared for this. »»


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