This Memorial Day is probably unlike any other Memorial Day we have ever observed.
Of course, as every other Memorial Day, “It Is All About Honoring and Remembering” the men and women who have given it all for our country, for us, in military service – and we do.
But on a day when the coronavirus death toll in our nation quickly and inexorably approaches the grim milestone of 100,000, when our country has lost more lives to the virus than to six of our wars as well as to 9/11 combined, we cannot let it pass without also mourning and honoring those whose lives have been cut short by the virus.
The New York Times, in an unprecedented move to convey the enormity of the tragedy – and to personalize it — has dedicated the entire front page and three additional inside pages to list the names of 1,000 victims of the virus (just 1 percent of the toll) along with a short “tribute” depicting “the uniqueness of each life lost.”
Below the stark headline “US deaths near 100,000, an incalculable loss”, is the sub-heading that reads: “They were not simply names on a list. They were us.”
The Times further expands, “Numbers alone cannot possibly measure the impact of the coronavirus on America, whether it is the number of patients treated, jobs interrupted, or lives cut short.”
One can read the front page with names and tributes here. In addition, in an interactive page, one can see symbolic figures for the nearly 100,000 victims and one can scroll down to find the names and descriptive phrases on 1,000 victims, along with the number one hundred thousand tolling “again and again” as written by Dan Barry. Such as:
One hundred thousand.
A number is an imperfect measure when applied to the human condition. A number provides an answer to how many, but it can never convey the individual arcs of life, the 100,000 ways of greeting the morning and saying good night.
Because of our own backgrounds, age and experiences, we all have some “biases” and preferences.
Here are some names and tributes reflecting my biases.
Douglas Hickok, 57, Pa. Military’s first virus casualty.
Harold L. Hayes, 96, Fort Wright, Ky. Original member of the Navy’s elite Underwater Demolition Team.
Bennie G. Adkins, 86, Opelika Ala. Medal of Honor recipient for Vietnam War heroism.
Philip Kahn, 100, Westbury N.Y. World War II veteran whose twin died in the Spanish Flu epidemic a century ago.
Orlando Moncada, 59, Bronxville, NY. Left Peru and grabbed hold of the American dream.
Jessica Beatriz Cortez, 32, Los Angeles. Immigrated to the United States three years ago.
Liudas Karolis Mikalonis, 86, Berkley, Mich. Immigrated to New York from a German refugee camp after World War II.
Marion Krueger, 85, Kirkland, Wash. Great-grandmother with an easy laugh.
Carl Redd, 62, Chicago. Squeezed in every moment he could with his only grandchild.
Robert M. Shaw, 69, Beverly, MA. Loved being Grandpa to his “little man” and “sweet pea.”
Clara Louise Bennett, 91, Albany. Sang her grandchildren a song on the first day of school each year.
There are 990 more beautiful tributes, such as…
Maria Tassiopoulos, 78, Braintree, MA. Made the best baklava ever.
Anna Sternik Warren, 100, Binghamton, NY. Feisty, unique lady to the end.
Roger Lehne, 93, Fargo, ND. Could be a real jokester.
And simply, yet full of meaning:
Jose Vazquez, 51, Chicago. Husband and father.
Antonio Checo, 67, New York City. Social worker.
Horace Saunders, 96, Mount Airy, Md. Tailor.
Of course, there are also the names of doctors, nurses, social workers, sanitary workers, firefighters, paramedics, candy stripers, gospel singers, pastors, restaurant workers, police officers, bus drivers, security guards, new fathers, new mothers… The names of those “first in the family to graduate from college,” “Sea hawks season ticket holders,” of those “who loved to dance” and those ”who excelled in the kitchen,” of “An Army man, 94, modest about his service in the Pacific” and of a “veteran with a gift for peacemaking.”
Finally, we read about
Azade Kilic, 69, New York. Two-time cancer survivor.
Wogene Debele, 43, Baltimore. Mother outlived by her newborn.
Norma Hoza, 101, Wilmette Ill. Mom to six sons.
Skylar Herbert, 5, Detroit. Michigan’s youngest victim of the coronavirus pandemic.
And perhaps shed a tear or two, if one hasn’t yet…
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.