OCEANSIDE, CA — In 1918, as world war and pandemic ravaged America, the Red Cross issued a call for help through the striking illustration of nurse reaching toward the viewer as soldiers march behind her.
More than a century later, the wartime image — captioned, "Have you answered the Red Cross Christmas roll call?" — inspired San Diego artist Lori Escalara to give it the full sidewalk treatment. On Friday, she added the finishing touches to an eight-foot-by-twelve-foot reproduction, drawn entirely in chalk, which is now on display on a sidewalk outside the Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside.
Escalara, who partnered with the hospital, created the piece as part of the annual I MADONNARI Italian Street Painting Festival, which has moved to a virtual format after the event was cancelled amid the coronavirus-related ban on public gatherings.
"I knew it I wanted the piece to be something that related to first responders," Escalara told Patch. "We're supposed to be honoring those people who sacrificed for us."
To her, the Red Cross poster represents a strong message: "We are all in this together."
After Escalara first stumbled across the illustration — the work of influential illustrator Harrison Fisher — she took note of the date: 1918. The poster had been released during the peak of the massively fatal flu pandemic that, more than a century later, still casts a historical shadow on the coronavirus crisis.
There was more to the connection than just pandemics: Escalara dug out a treasured photo of her grandmother, who had worked as a nurse in New York City during the outbreak known as the Great Influenza. The back of the photo was dated 1918.
For Escalara, the connection between the illustrated Red Cross poster and the black-and-white photo of her own grandmother felt "serendipitous." Over the course of three days, nurses approached her spot on the sidewalk to view her progress on the piece.
"The nurses, they'd walk up to me and say 'This is amazing," she said.
And Escalara would respond, "No, you are."