This is what I saw at the monument to the victims of COVID-19 in the United States

WASHINGTON – Handwritten tributes are addressed, in various ways, to Mom, Mom, Mom, Grandma, Nana, Great-grandmother. For daddy, daddy, papaya. Dear brother, dear sister, Aunt Linda, Uncle Rod, Reverend.

“My hero.”

“My perfect love Ray.”

“For the love of my life.”

“For the best boy of all time.”

There are many of them, some scrawled almost illegibly and others carefully printed in neat block letters. Some with small drawings of hearts or crosses, a Ferris wheel, a happy face. Some with photos stapled. So many, each a specific individual tear of loss wept in an ocean of pain.

The temporary COVID-19 memorial on the National Mall in Washington will be on display on September 22, 2021. It is comprised of more than 650,000 white flags spanning 20 acres, each representing an American life lost to the pandemic.  Many individual flags carry handwritten tributes for loved ones.

The tiny white flags, more than 650,000 of them and counting, fluttered in the wind under a gray sky this week, planted in more than 140 neat squares, row after row, on 20 acres of the National Mall in Washington, an area greater than 15 football fields. They commemorate the lives lost in the United States so far from the coronavirus pandemic, spreading from a giant sign between the White House and the Washington Monument that simply reads, “In America: Remember. 678,584 “.

At least that’s what he was saying on Wednesday afternoon. The number on the sign increases every day as the death toll rises. It is increasing now, again, by more than 2,000 every day. The temporary memorial installation is the work of artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg. The scale is amazing: you can walk more than six kilometers of paths between the flags.

Washington does memorials so well. Across the river, the endless rolling fields of white marble headstones at Arlington National Cemetery evoke the enormous cost of centuries of warfare. A few steps from these flags are crowned stone fountains and markers commemorating WWII.

Washington does memorials so well.  Across the river, the endless rolling fields of white marble headstones at Arlington National Cemetery evoke the enormous cost of centuries of warfare.

Just beyond, a cut of black marble emerges from a green hill, inscribed with the many, many names of the American soldiers who died in the Vietnam War – a dark black scar on the landscape that acts as a list of losses. It’s controversial, but it seems to sum up the effect of that war. It is not a celebration. A challenge. To avoid.

So too the medium for the COVID-19 memorial seems to fulfill its message. Firstenberg has said that he chose white because it is a color associated with innocence, which is what he thinks of COVID-19 victims. Jump from the deep green of the grass, the flags fluttering like twinkling stars attracting and holding your attention.

But wandering around, many visitors will no doubt recognize that a white flag is a universally recognized symbol of surrender. You wave it to beg for an ending. Out of mercy. In a country where millions of people have rejected free and universally available vaccines, and simple masks have become a battlefield, some may consider how many of these lives have been handed over, not by victims, but by fellow citizens and governments. who are unwilling to take simple actions. to protect your neighbors.

In a country where millions of people have rejected free and universally available vaccines, and simple masks have become a battlefield, some may consider how many of these lives have been handed over, not by victims, but by fellow citizens and governments. who are unwilling to take simple actions.  to protect your neighbors.

There is a hint of that conclusion included in the memorial. In one corner, a separate plot of just 27 flags marks New Zealand’s cumulative death toll from COVID-19, its marker pointing to that country’s response of “immediate national closure, quality test protocols, contact tracing and compliance. quarantine “. A nearby sign suggests that similar measures in the US could have kept the death toll here below 2,000.

It is not certain that the planned alternative scenario would have developed so easily. But there is no doubt that what happened in the United States has caused more deaths than in any other country in the world. The white flags here help to visualize the immensity of that loss.

The wide view of it is amazing. The close-up view is heartbreaking.

When you bend down to read the individual memorials and tributes that visitors have written, you are faced with not just the numbers that have accumulated, but the individual names, lives, and loves that make up those numbers.

When you bend down to read the individual memorials and tributes that visitors have written, you are faced with not just the numbers that have accumulated, but the individual names, lives, and loves that make up those numbers.

Some contain capsule biographies.

“Jacqueline Lena Tardif: She was a 29-year-old engineer who designed and built satellites, including two sent into space from the International Space Station.”

“John (Juan) Sierra: He loved photography, karaoke and was also a good dancer.”

“Alan Merrill: Composer of ‘I Love Rock’ n ‘Roll'”.

“Loren James Goude Jr. … He loved his Harley, hunting, Chicago Cubs, University of Alabama football, but most of all his family.”

Many more are expressed as personal notes directly to those who died.

“My perfect love Ray, I will hold you in my heart until the day I die. We came so close to surviving this and making it to our wedding day. ”

“We love you and we miss you, Dad.”

“Your death was really sudden. We did not expect it. I’m sorry you got sick from taking care of Grandma. “

“Thank you for being our first home in America… You were such a strong and powerful woman. I regret not being able to attend his funeral due to the pandemic. “

“Fly free mom”

Those 678,584 deaths represent a national tragedy, one made up of 678,584 individual tragedies.

Those 678,584 deaths represent a national tragedy, one made up of 678,584 individual tragedies.

You see glimpses of entire lives lived in those letters of loss and tribute. “My father, 94-year-old WWII vet, Gene Serafino. This didn’t have to happen. “

You see flashes of loves left behind. For Ryan Matthew Adam Tidwell: “Nine years will never be enough, but I will appreciate our time together.”

See glimpses of truncated futures. To 14-year-old Anna Belle Carter: “To the greatest girl of all time; Thanks for being ours, Anna. The world was better because you were in it. “

And you look at the abyss of personal suffering that each one of those many flags represents, their number stretches out into the distance in all directions, growing every day. “Maria H. Fierro – Sadness will last forever.”



Reference-www.thestar.com

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