97-Year-Old Survivor of Great Depression Shares Message of Optimism Amid Coronavirus Pandemic


NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — With overwhelming financial loss and empty grocery store shelves, the coronavirus pandemic has been compared to the Great Depression. Is this an accurate connection?

WCBS 880’s Steve Scott spoke with 97-year-old Dr. Gabe Vitalone, who shared his experience growing up during the Depression in the 1930s and offered a glimmer of hope during these unprecedented times.

Recounting his childhood, Dr. Vitalone explains, “I was fortunate to be born into a very loving family. My family never saw us as being poor and that we could handle anything we were supposed to.”

They were able to salvage meals out of the food they had in the house, describing the positive mindset they gained in order to get through the tough times.

Dr. Vitalone says it is crucial to maintain an optimistic attitude now, as well.

“You can’t give in, you can’t quit. We must do our job of staying out of the general population to not only protect ourselves, but to protect others. Our job is a piece of cake compared to what other people are doing,” he said.

He describes how lucky he was to have a roof over his head as a child and feels the same way today. He urges others to feel grateful for what they have.

Noting his feelings coming out of World War II, Dr. Vitalone says, “I felt tough, strong, like I could handle anything. We’re a tough country. We’ve got to hold on to what we have. Be kind to one another, call each other up and offer support.”

It seems our current state can be comparable to wartimes. Dr. Vitalone understands what must happen after all is said and done.

“Once we get by this, there’s an obligation on us to care for the injuries that are going to come about as a result of this, but that’s part of our job,” he explains. “That’s the job of life.”

Hearing uplifting words from an individual who has seen the worst and still remains hopeful can certainly encourage us to do the same.

We must know that we will eventually get through this, just like he did, by working together. 

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