A year has passed since the first case of COVID-19 was detected here in Suffolk County. At that time, we could not imagine how life would change, how many trials and tribulations we would have to endure, and how much loss we would suffer.
The United States recently marked a tragic milestone with 500,000 lives lost to COVID-19. Here in Suffolk County, more than 3,000 residents have died of coronavirus-related conditions. That is a tremendous number of people to lose in a single year. Some of those who have passed away were essential workerswhocontractedtheviruswhile doing their jobs and keeping society running, whether in law enforcement, health care or other pubic-facing workers. These losses have left so many of us in mourning.
To honor the family members, neighbors, heroes and friends we have lost, the Suffolk County Legislature has created the Suffolk County COVID-19 Memorial. Those who have lost someone are invited to write their loved one’s name on a ribbon and tie it to the memorial, located outside the William H. Rogers Legislature Building at 725 Veterans Memorial Highway in Smithtown. East End residents may tie ribbons on a structure set up in the lobby of the Evans K. Griffing building, located at 300 Center Drive in Riverside. Ribbons and markers will be available at both locations Monday through Friday between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The two structures will ultimately be combined into one and put on permanent display in Hauppauge.
Given COVID-19 safety precautions and the fact that we are still living with this virus, we have also created an option for people to submit loved one’s names online if they are no tcomfortable coming in person.
Names can be submitted by filling out the form at www.scnylegislature.us/CovidMemorial. The website also offers an option to share a photo and a story about the person. After the county receives a submission, staff members will write the loved one’s name on a ribbon and tie it to the memorial on a family’s behalf.
Losing someone is always difficult. During the pandemic, it has been made all the more painful with an added layer of isolation. Early on, those whose loved ones were in the hospital or other health care centers were not able to be with them in their last moments. We all heard the heartbreaking stories of people saying goodbye over FaceTime and Zoom video. Families were not able to grieve in the ways we are used to; there were no wakes or funerals, and no sitting shiva taking comfort in others. When we grieve, we need to have community around us to support us. We hope the Suffolk County COVID-19 Memorial provides a way of providing that support to all those families who have lost someone special to them.
The memorial was constructed by Boy Scout Troop 888, who designed and built it and donated the supplies with some help from Perino’s Canvas & Awning in Bay Shore. I thank them both for stepping in to help us in this endeavor to honor these precious lives.
Each ribbon that is placed on the Suffolk County COVID-19 Memorial represents a Suffolk County resident who tragically lost their fight to COVID-19. We will never forget those we lost and hope that their memory will serve to remind us how precious life and community truly is.