Temporary memorials have been set up all over the United States: 250,000 white flags at RFK Stadium in Washington, 250,000 flowers in Florida and strings of origami cranes throughout Los Angeles.
It is difficult to create more lasting memorials that honor the over 600,000. Americans who died from the coronavirus. This is due to politics.
A bill to establish a national COVID-19 commemoration process was killed in Congress last year as Trump's administration tried to minimize the effects of the pandemic.
States are a good place for monuments to be built, given the complexity of remembering the early federal government's handling of the disease, according to James Young, founder of the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Institute for Holocaust, Genocide and Memory Studies.
He said, "We don't remember just the victims. But we end up thinking about the U.S. government's indifference, or even neglect, malignant negligence of the disease itself, and much less the victims."
Nancy Bristow, University of Puget Sound history professor, stated that non-pandemic monuments, such as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C., and the Oklahoma City National Memorial, and the National Sept. 11 Memorial, New York, were created through negotiations between diverse stakeholders who were willing to overcome controversy to reach common narratives.
She said that a national COVID-19 memorial will not be as clear-cut.
Bristow stated that memorials have the problem and strength of telling the story we want. They may not be able to help us learn from the past, or remember the complexities of our past. "Commemoration is not about nuance.
Governors who are relying on their success in fighting the virus may find it difficult to share their stories.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (a Republican) and New York Governor. Andrew Cuomo (a Democrat) was among the first to capture the virus narrative earlier this year with their memorial proposals.
Democratic Kentucky Governor. Andy Beshear revealed that a panel made up of experts from the state government and local artists had selected 11 artists for design proposals to be included in the state's permanent memorial. This was after a successful money-raising campaign. Maine's state legislator proposed legislation to do the exact same thing.
DeWine's COVID-19 Pandemic Memorial Grove was dedicated April 19th at a state park in Chillicothe. It included the white oak, which can survive for up to 400 years.
"Maybe someone will come here and will talk about their grandmother, great-grandmother, great-great-grandmother who went through the pandemic," DeWine said at the event. "Maybe someone died in their family, or maybe there was someone in their families who was a nurse, doctor, or someone who made a difference for others. It is important to remember the sacrifices made.
Cuomo is reorganizing after neighbors protested at plans to build a concrete memorial for Battery Park's essential workers. Cuomo has stated that workers should be remembered for their valor.
He said, "They saved New Yorkers' lives," when he announced the creation of the steering committee in April. COVID was a war, and they were war heros. They risked their lives to save others in that war.
Young stated that DeWine, Cuomo and other leaders are creating their memorial language around these leadership styles.
Young stated that DeWine saw himself as a sort of pater familias, trying to care for everyone. Cuomo however, did not see himself or portray him as a general fighting the virus.
Bristow stated that the war metaphor was used to describe the 1918 influenza epidemic. This occurred during World War I, and that conflation eventually overtook all memories of the deadly disease. It never received a national monument.
She said, "The war was a heroic story, it was a success, it was an expression American exceptionalism and how great were we, which is what Americans want and want to be seen as," "The pandemic didn't offer this kind of story."
COVID-19 memorials can also be used to answer practical questions.
It could be difficult to list victims' names on a national monument, as some monuments do.
In March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report that showed that only 5% of death certificates that included COVID-19 were attributed exclusively to the virus. It was often associated with other contributing conditions, such as exacerbating illnesses like diabetes or simultaneous conditions like pneumonia.
These details will be finalized, but some smaller permanent memorials, such as a statue for sanitation workers in New York, Detroit wall murals, and a Dover churchyard sculpture, are already in place.
There are many heartfelt, but fleeting tributes that can be offered, such as bell-ringings and vigils.
Kristin Urquiza is co-founder and executive director of Marked by COVID. She said that she is working to lay the foundation for a push for a permanent memorial in the country later in the year.
Urquiza was the focus of attention last year because of a speech she gave during the Democratic National Convention in which she blamed Trump's leadership for her father’s death from COVID-19. However, she stated that the project is not partisan and unites officials of both the parties.
She said, "A physical monument would be a place for us to grieve." "A place where we can all come together, to be human beings and Americans who have been through this together.
U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat (New York Democrat) has also reintroduced a bill that would start a national COVID-19 commemoration process.
Espaillat stated that the legislation would allow the memorial to be seated in the Bronx (an early COVID-19 hotspot). He did not address whether Trump's virus politics played any role in the demise of his previous bill. He said that any memorial must address some of the uncomfortable truths revealed during the pandemic.
He stated that while we push for the establishment of a national memorial, it is important to reflect on the grave racial disparities COVID-19 has caused throughout health systems making Black and brown communities more vulnerable.
In April 2020, Keith Jacobs, a Massachusetts photographer, died from COVID-19. He had been there for only a few weeks before the pandemic.
Marcy Jacobs (64), Marcy Jacobs of Stoughton in Massachusetts said that her husband and other victims of the pandemic will be forgotten. The disease is decreasing and people who have not lost a loved one are moving on.
She said that she didn't expect them to move on without giving them a place for grieving. Is it a rock for everyone? "I don't know."
She said that President Joe Biden's inauguration-eve tribute to COVID-19 victims was a nice gesture, but she believes more is needed.
She asked, "What's the country going to do?"