[Curating COVID-19 Memorials]

Total USA COVID-19 Deaths to Date Above: Source, JHU

As the conversation shifts to vaccines and variants, we want to be sure that the most vulnerable among us whose lives were lost during the darkest days of the pandemic and those who died despite their best efforts at protecting themselves due to underlying medical vulnerabilities are not forgotten.

Several people and organizations across the United States have created digital and physical memorials, giving grieving loved ones a space to recognize that their deceased relatives and friends have not been forgotten in the noise of the ongoing pandemic. Yet, each attempt at memorialization captures but a sliver of the victims of this mass death event. Here we attempt to curate some of the touching memorials we have discovered. If there is a memorial that you would like us to feature, please contact us.

The New York Times

100,000 Coronavirus Deaths Commemorative Issue

When the USA passed the grim marker of 100,000 reported COVID-19 deaths, The New York Times produced print and digital commemorative issues.

Screen recording of NYT commemorative digital issue
“Those We’ve Lost”

New York Times collection of obituaries of coronavirus victims in 2020 on a more global scale. As of January 2022, the series is no longer being updated.

Snapshot from NYT Series “Those We’ve Lost.”

The City News Organization

Remembering the New Yorkers We’ve Lost to‌ COVID‑19

This ongoing crowdsourced journalism project aims to collect and memorialize the stories of the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who succumbed to the coronavirus. The project is a collaboration between THE CITY, Columbia Journalism School, Brown Institute for Media Innovation and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. Read more.

NYC Metropolitan Transit Authority

Travels Far: A Memorial Honoring MTA Workers Lost to COVID-19

Early on in the pandemic we were very concerned about the vulnerability of essential workers in NYC as the virus tore through our communities. We noticed that it tooks weeks for the MTA to implement measures to protect workers like sealing off the bus driver’s from the general public. We are so devastated to learn that over 100 MTA workers lost their lives to the coronavirus and wish to amplify this memorial honoring their service. Learn more about the memorial.

The Poor People’s Campaign

Memorial Wall

The Poor People’s Campaign (PPC), led by Reverend Barber advocates for meaningful policy shifts at the federal and state levels to recognize and ameliorate the condition of the millions among us who live in crushing poverty. The PPC Memorial Wall remembers those who died at the intersection of COVID-19 and poverty. Ream more about poverty and the pandemic

Snapshot of the PPC Memorial Wall


Enduring Loss

Another memorial by a news organization, National Public Radio in collaboration with its member stations and New York Public Radio presents vignettes of a few bright lights that were prematurely snuffed out due to the pandemic. This project is not ongoing. Learn more about the “Enduring Loss” project.

The Washington Post

The Pandemic’s First Wave

The Washington Post combines statistics with real, human stories of some of the early victims of the coronavirus pandemic as it tore through communities at a time when there were no treatments and no vaccines. This piece both humanizes the data and highlights major gaps in data on the victims. For example the race and gender of the first 1000 victims were discernible for less that 50% of those identified. However the paper takes time with some of the victims to truly humanize the data. Their disaggregation of the data into compelling visualizations also enhances the storytelling in this article.

Washington Post Article on First 1000 Victims of COVID-19
Other Washington Post Memorials
A token of our love: A memorial for those lost to covid-19

This is an interesting concept in the realm of crowdsourcing COVID-19 memorials. Users of the site were invited to leave “tokens” identified by culturally typical symbols of grief and comfort. Learn more here.

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