50,000 Benghazis, 109 Katrinas: U.S. COVID-19 Death in Perspective

50,000 Benghazis, 109 Katrinas: U.S. COVID-19 Death in Perspective

PERSPECTIVE: Catastrophes50,000 Benghazis, 109 Katrinas: U.S. COVID-19 Death in Perspective


Published 23 September 2020

The United States now counts over 200,000 dead in direct connection with the novel coronavirus. Elizabeth Hunt Brockway writes that to grasp the enormity of this figure, we need to see how this massive number stacks up to Pearl Harbor, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and other iconic events of mass death, suffering, and pain seared into the American collective conscience.



The United States now counts over 200,000 dead in direct connection with the novel coronavirus. Elizabeth Hunt Brockway writes in the Daily Beastthat to grasp the enormity of this figure, we need to see how this massive number stacks up to Benghazi, 9/11, and other iconic events of mass death, suffering, and pain seared into the American collective conscience.


The battle of Gettysburg. The D-Day invasion of Normandy. The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.


These are some of the most harrowing moments of mass death and suffering in American history—nightmares seared indelibly into the national consciousness. And yet they pale in terms of sheer lethality when compared to the novel coronavirus, which has now claimed more than 200,000 lives in the United States in a little over seven months.


For over half of 2020, Americans have sifted through daily reports of those deaths. What began as a trickle of misery out of the Northwest transformed into a flood of hundreds and in some cases thousands of lives lost per day. Suddenly, what would otherwise be national days of mourning in tribute to those lost became just another day in a horrible year.


With the daily barrage of grim statistics, the actual human cost of coronavirus can often feel too abstract to fully process. In an effort to help contextualize the lethal breadth of the disease, The Daily Beast has visually mapped the death toll of COVID-19 on top of prior national catastrophes: days that “will live in infamy…”, others that Americans vowed to “never forget.”


From the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to the attack on Pearl Harbor, from the sinking of the Titanic to Hurricane Katrina, from the Oklahoma City federal building bombing to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, from the Hindenburg to the Benghazi consulate attack, this is a disturbing look at the human destruction already wrought by COVID-19 compared to some of the most trying moments in American history.

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