It’s one of the few formal public remembrances of coronavirus victims in the US since the pandemic began.
The event was spurred by a few things, said Chris Kocher, founder of Covid Survivors for Change: The tragedy of 200,000 lives lost, the six-month mark of the pandemic and the absence of national recognition for those killed by coronavirus.
“We are living through this collective national trauma — we’re six months into the pandemic and still sort of reeling from it,” Kocher told CNN. “A big part of compounding people’s grief … is the lack of acknowledgment, lack of recognition.”
So the group decided on the National Mall, within view of the White House, as the venue where they’d mourn the dead and call lawmakers to action to prevent further deaths.
People like Lisa Billings, an ER nurse from New York, shared how the virus had touched their lives. Billings’ brother, Leo, died from the virus three weeks after his admission to the hospital. His death prompted Billings to connect her patients with their family members over the phone to overcome restrictions on visitors.
The group recruited volunteers to set up the scores of empty chairs — one chair for every 10 lives lost to coronavirus. Kocher said he wanted a display that “captured the sheer volume of loss,” Kocher said.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” he said.