Mosaic Community Essays
Remembering Those We Have Lost
On June 25th 2022, Rhode Islanders came to the installation of the Covid-19 Memorial, 3605 white flags on the statehouse lawn, to honor and mourn 3605 fellow Rhode Islanders, 36 of whom were healthcare workers, too many of whom got infected and gave their lives trying to save the lives of others. We honored and mourned 1,040,641 Americans, and at least 6,349,274 people around the world. Uncomfortable, tragic numbers for me and for us.
We came to comfort the brothers and sisters of those we lost, their mothers and fathers, their aunts, uncles, and their cousins, lovers, and friends. To remember the people they were. To hear, share and celebrate the stories of their lives. To remember their suffering and their courage.
I, however, had another sad duty. It was my duty to remember that much of this pandemic was preventable.
In other advanced nations like Australia and New Zealand, the death rate was about one tenth of ours. In Taiwan and Japan, the death rate was one-fifteenth of ours.
If only we had come together right away, and battled this virus as one people, we would be mourning 300 or 360 people, a sad enough number—but not 3605. More than 3000 Rhode Islanders lost their lives to our inability to stand together as one people. 900,000 of our fellow Americans.
We live in a time when truth is under assault. We live in a time when many people are speaking, and few are listening.
We need to remember that USA starts with United, with U and not with an I. The pandemic was a warning — a reminder that we are desperately interdependent on each other.
We need each other.
And we need to protect our democracy, which is really just a political reflection of our desperate need to be together as one people who listen, just listen to one another.
I was there to mourn my cousin Jerry Greenberger, who died alone at 74 in a hospital bed in the Bronx,in the hospital where he got infected. I’ll never forgot the cold day in April when I had to watch on Zoom while his wife Debbie and their two children, Evan and Emily buried their husband and father, alone in the cemetery, in early April before the leaves were on the trees, when a cold wind was blowing,and none of Jerry’s brothers or cousins could be with Debbie and Evan and Emily to hold them up.
I mourn for everyone we lost. But even more I mourn for our soul as one people, standing together, holding each other up and I mourn for our commitment to put people and human life before profit and political expediency.
I worry about our future, And I pray we find the courage to stand up as one people again soon. I pray that we remember to vote and vote for people who will fight to save the lives of others, who don’t put the almighty dollar first
And I pray that all of us remember to do what our brave health care workers did: to serve each other before we serve ourselves.
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