Niagara Falls turned orange on the night of Jan. 18 with spotlights the favorite color of an 11-year-old local boy who died from influenza A—despite having been in excellent health, getting a flu shot, and receiving prompt, best-of-the-best medical care.
Luca Calanni’s parents and everybody else involved had done everything right. He had still gone from giving a stellar basketball performance on a Saturday to suffering catastrophic cardiac arrest early the following Thursday morning.
Yet even after the nation’s 33rd pediatric influenza death this flu season was memorialized in the most public way by tinting the thundering falls, there was no public panic. There was no mass buying of face masks as there has been in more recent days in fearful anticipation of the new coronavirus, which so far has not been known to kill any Americans of any age. Flu has killed more than 10,000 in the United States so far this season, and the death toll may exceed 60,000, but the items that flew off the shelves after Luca’s death were lightbulbs of his favorite hue.
“You couldn’t get an orange lightbulb at Lowe’s or Home Depot,” the boy’s father, Roger Calanni, told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. “They sold out in western New York.”
And the widespread oranging of streets and residences in the fifth grader’s hometown of Lake View, NY as well as the falls was prompted not by how Luca died but by how he lived.
He was known for introducing himself by holding out his hand, looking you right in the eye, and saying, “Hi, I’m Luca Calanni! I’m glad to meet you.” And he was sure to do this if he saw a kid who was left out or reluctant to join in.
As he played basketball, soccer, lacrosse, and golf, he was always ready to call out an encouraging “Nice try!” He once advised a teammate who was a little too exuberant in enjoying a victory, “Sometimes it is more important to win with class than it is to lose with class.”
At one camp session, Luca began each morning talking to a youngster who had special needs. And if that youngster sat out an activity, Luca would join him.
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