Memorials in honor of deceased COVID-19 begin to take shape


How can we possibly commemorate the cruel toll of COVID-19? It’s something I’ve been thinking about this week. The US celebrated Memorial Day on May 31, in honor of those who died in military service. Artists, politicians and activists are now starting to think about how to commemorate the more than 3.7 million people around the world who have died from COVID-19.

Temporary memorials have already surfaced in the past 18 months, with flags, painted hearts and photos in honor of the dead. But plans for new, more permanent memorials are beginning to take shape. Some are huge structures, others are quiet gardens, and still others will be incorporated into spaces already dedicated to commemorating those who have passed away. In the UK, plans are being discussed for a memorial in London at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Last August, a team in Uruguay announced plans to launch a large-scale commemoration of the pandemic in Montevideo.

An artist’s impression of what the monument in Montevideo could look like.

Whatever form those memorials take, they will occupy a unique place in the memorial landscape. Compared to other tributes, disease monuments are relatively rare. There are almost no memorials to the millions who died in the 1918 flu pandemic, and the few that are have only recently been installed.

Unlike diseases, wars, attacks and disasters are usually finite, tied to a particular place or time. Memorials for those kinds of events can be erected in specific places. Diseases, on the other hand, can be more pervasive and spread across entire regions or populations. There is no equivalent to Ground Zero for COVID-19, just as there was none for the flu that ravaged the world in 1918.

Many diseases are also stigmatized, which is why she harder for people to talk about. In recent decades, public memorials have helped break that stigma. today forty years ago, first reports of another epidemic — HIV/AIDS — were published by the CDC. The disease swept through the gay community, and homophobia and fear left patients and their loved ones exiled. The AIDS QuiltFirst shown in 1987, showed the world the devastation of the epidemic and helped pressure officials to do something about the disease, rather than ignore the growing death toll.

COVID-19 memorials are being built in a different environment from those built by AIDS activists in the 1980s. Research into COVID-19 is well funded and the societal pressures between the two are not the same. What they do have in common is the need for a space to grieve.

Other deadly outbreaks have shown that erecting memorials can be part of helping societies heal after devastating and disruptive loss. As part of the effort to fight Ebola, experts recommended that memorials are located in affected areas, to give communities a safe space to mourn their dead. Cemeteries and memorials to people who died of Ebola were based in Liberia and other countries. Similar plans could help people grieving loved ones lost to COVID-19, who may have had to refrain from funeral rituals during the pandemic.

Some COVID-19 memorials are is already taking shape, from gardens and parks to steel statues. Others may take longer to get together. Advisory committees are formed to plan memorials in the US from: California to New York. Ideas for a COVID-19 memorial in New York City the city’s public cemeteries are still in their infancy (the city’s sanitation department — hard hit by the pandemic — recently unveiled his own memorial).

All these monuments, made of steel and stone, and living wood will be designed to honor people who are no longer around, or who have contributed to efforts to stop the pandemic. There will be plaques and parks, statues and stained glass, all trying to understand something incomprehensible. Any effort will be complicated by the sheer magnitude of the task at hand. The number of deaths to be commemorated continues to grow and may never be fully known. Everything we think of will be just an echo of the immense loss.

“Even if we could come up with a full census of the victims of COVID,” author and journalist Justin Davidson wrote in curbed earlier this year, “writing all their names would take a wall the size of the Hoover Dam”


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“I’ve never really understood well enough how patients feel,” he said. “Even though I convince patients to get a feeding tube and encourage them by saying, ‘Even though it seems like hell now, it will get better and you’ll get through it,’ I really never understood what that was. hell means.”

— Tomaki Kato, a transplant surgeon who was being treated for severe COVID-19 tells The New York Times.

More than numbers

To the people who used the 2.06 . have received billion vaccine doses disseminated so far — thanks.

To the more than 172,648,986 people worldwide who have tested positive, may your road to recovery be smooth.

To the families and friends of the 3,714,070 people who have died worldwide – 597,003 of them in the US – your loved ones will not be forgotten.

Stay safe, everyone.