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Covid 19 Memorials / Kious Kelly-Madhvi Aya-Priscilla Carrow

As the year 2021 ends with another wave of Covid-19 illness and death, I wanted to call attention to the time when the Covid-19 pandemic first hit in January and February of 2020. Although only 2 years ago, it seems like so much has happened since then and that the memory of the deaths from Covid-19 of heathcare and essential workers during that first devastating and isolating time is being lost. Do you remember the 7pm clapping salutes to front line workers that happened each day during the first weeks and months?

One year later, in March 2021, I created and installed separate memorials to 3 New York City healthcare workers who died from Covid-19 in the first few weeks of the pandemic in 2020. The duty and sacrifice of these healthcare workers to their hospital patients and co-workers is heroic—in light of the flood of severely ill and infectious patients along with the scramble and shifting knowledge for the proper PPE protection in the hospitals and emergency rooms.

Their deaths, along with everyone else who has died from this disease, are tragic and gutting, especially when you think of the loved ones they have left behind. This is what moved me to create and install these memorials, as well as the desire to pay tribute to all of healthcare and front line workers who died from Covid-19.

Kious Kelly, an assistant nurse manager at Mt. Sinai West Hospital (Manhattan), died from Covid-19 on March 24, 2020 (top).

Madhvi Aya, a physicians assistant in the emergency room at Woodhull Hospital (Brooklyn), died from Covid-19 on March 29, 2020 (middle)

Priscilla Carrow, a coordinating manager at Elmhurst Hospital (Queens), died from Covid-19 on March 30, 2020 (bottom)

As 2022 begins, there are many online Covid-19 tributes, like the Kaiser Health Network/Guardian tribute and many local memorials, but i am struck by the lack of physical outdoor memorials to the first Covid-19 era of 2020 and beyond. “Disease” memorials are rare. However, while there are almost no memorials to the millions who died during the 1918 flu pandemic, there are AIDS/HIV epidemic memorials—showing an evolving acknowledgement of the power and necessity of these kinds of memorials.

An internet search shows several outdoor and physical Covid-19 memorials, such as a great one in London, England, one at the Brooklyn Museum in New York, and this temporary one in Washington D.C. (left).

This unprecedented and difficult time in our personal and collective lives should be remembered. Covid-19 memorials should be in public and with a space set aside for them. Physical public memorials (and online memorials) are vital for grieving, coping, healing, and acknowledging. Maybe—in a few decades—we can learn from them, like the AIDS/HIV memorials.

It is encouraging that there are plans for several future memorials even as the pandemic continues. If you know of any “official” or “unofficial” outdoor memorials to Covid-19 victims, contact me here. I will add the New York City ones to the Covid-19 section of this web site.

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