During the recent inaugural ceremonies, a moving tribute was offered to commemorate the over 400,000 lives lost to COVID.
Four hundred candles were placed along the rim of the reflecting pool on the Capitol mall one for each 1,000 fatality. It is a visual representation of the magnitude of the terrible loss of life that has been associated with the virus that has terrified so many of us.
As I watch the PBS Newshour each night, I have come to look forward to the Friday evening ritual. Each Friday as they close the program they show small vignettes of some of the people who have been victims of the pandemic; just a minute or two of a short personal depiction of the person who became part of a statistic. It helps me a lot to think of the numbers in terms of actual people, moms, dads, brothers, friends, people who meant something to those who they left behind.
I so appreciate that simple but very effective gesture to personalize and humanize a very real problem. The sad truth is that over time, we tend to become somewhat jaded in our reaction to something that has taken on such epic proportions. As the numbers grow larger, some of us find ourselves unable to relate to them, and so we don’t make the mental connection that each number represents an actual person. President Biden, in his inaugural address stated that so far, more Americans have died from COVID than all of the casualties suffered in World War II.
I have come to believe that we should be paying more attention to those who have become victims of this modern plague. We should recognize how much we have lost in terms of friends and family and members of our community. It seems to me that the least we can do for those victims and their friends and families is to acknowledge them and pay tribute to the loss we have all suffered because of their demise. It’s difficult enough to grieve a personal loss, but notably more difficult to have that loss be attributed to some random act of nature.
I believe that every community should offer some kind of public testimony to those lost to COVID and acknowledge that our world is poorer without them.
I recently was able to receive my first vaccination and felt so fortunate as I drove to the site to know that I was being given an opportunity to protect myself and others from the spread of the virus. I also feel encouraged to know that eventually everyone will have the chance to receive the vaccine, and I hope that everyone takes advantage of the opportunity to help stem the spread of this hazard that is totally indiscriminate in its impact on our communities.
On a more uplifting note, I, together with so many others, was inspired to witness the recitation by 22-year-old Amanda Gorman of her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the inauguration. With a level of insight and emotional maturity that many of us continue to seek well into old age, she dazzled us with her words and hopeful message of a democracy still unfolding right before our eyes.
As a person who appreciates and respects both the beauty and power of words, I found myself mesmerized by her passionate delivery and the brightness and lyricism in her voice. Oh to be able to reach to the heart of the matter as effectively as she, is every writer’s dream.
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