WEST BABYLON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — One of the people lost to the coronavirus on Long Island was a man whose twin brother died a century ago because of another pandemic.
Too often now, heroes of another era are being laid to rest with little fanfare.
That includes 100-year-old Philip Kahn, of Great Neck, who had a life that touched so many American milestones from the moment he was born.
“My grandfather, throughout my entire life, had always told me about his twin brother, Samuel, who had died during the Spanish Flu pandemic,” said Warren Zysman, Kahn’s grandson.
Born in 1919, Kahn’s twin brother died just weeks later in one of the deadliest pandemics in human history.
“Both Philip and his brother were pandemic bookends. His brother having passed from the Spanish Flu and him regrettably having passed from COVID,” Kahn’s granddaughter Dr. Corey Karlin-Zysman said.
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He was also the oldest living veteran in Nassau County.
Kahn was a decorated World War II Air Force veteran who co-piloted missions on Iwo Jima, then shared his history by donating his photos to the Intrepid Museum.
Later, as an electrical foreman, he helped build the Twin Towers.
He would have twin grandchildren of his own and teach them the virtues of hard work and resilience. He was sharp until the very end, when he succumbed to COVID-19.
“Knowing that you had a twin that you ultimately never got to know because of a pandemic really affected him,” Karlin-Zysman said. “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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His life was celebrated in historic fashion. His great-grandchildren were allowed to speak at the funeral from a distance.
“I just want to tell him thank you for all he’s done for us,” 9-year-old Elliot said.
“All I know is that he was a great man,” 7-year-old Reese said.
“He loved us and we loved him the same,” Elliot said.
Remembering one of the few Americans who knew firsthand the tragic toll of a pandemic.
“He always had a motto that history will always repeat itself, and he knew that there was possibility of a pandemic again,” Zysman said. “The one silver lining is that my grandfather will finally have the opportunity to meet his twin brother after 100 years.”
Kahn died as he lived — courageous and cognizant of the lessons of history.