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Santa Monica COVID-19 memorial event is part of a push for a national day of mourning

Rose flower heads dot a fishing net that hangs against a wall.
The event will take place at Building Bridges Art Exchange in Santa Monica, where artist Marcos Lutyens’ Rose River Memorial pays tribute to COVID-19 victims.
(Marcos Lutyens)

A Santa Monica memorial honoring those who have died of COVID-19 is part of a grass-roots push to designate a national day of remembrance, organizers say.

The memorial will take place at noon Monday at Building Bridges Art Exchange, where an installation of felt roses by artist Marcos Lutyens pays tribute to those from Los Angeles’ Westside who have died of the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Volunteers will lay a wreath as part of the Floral Heart Project, an effort launched by New York artist Kristina Libby that is coordinating the laying of wreaths in about 75 U.S. cities and towns.

Los Angeles leadership coach Carolyn Freyer-Jones will lead participants in a minute of silence. She and her brother founded the Friday Minute, which encourages people to pause for 60 seconds each week to remember those affected by COVID-19. Their father died of the disease in July, on his 86th birthday. The family hasn’t yet been able to hold funeral services due to health restrictions.

“There are so many people who have not been able to honor their loved ones in the usual rituals,” Freyer-Jones said Sunday. “And so many people are grieving in so many different ways.”

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Grassroots memorials honoring COVID-19 victims have risen across California and the nation, trying to express in images what words cannot.

As word of her project spread via Instagram, Freyer-Jones connected with others organizing memorial efforts, including Kristin Urquiza, a San Francisco social justice advocate who also lost her father to the virus. Urquiza drew attention when she appeared during the Democratic National Convention and issued a scathing condemnation of then-President Trump, saying her father had believed him when he and other officials downplayed the severity of the coronavirus and suggested it was a hoax.

Urquiza and partner Christine Keeves went on to found Marked by COVID, a nonprofit that advocates for people affected by the pandemic and is leading the call for a nationwide day of mourning. The Santa Monica event is one of more than 100 being staged across the country Monday with an eye toward establishing a permanent COVID memorial day, according to the group.

The movement appears to be gaining steam. On Friday, U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton (D-Ariz.) introduced a resolution to designate the first Monday in March a memorial day for victims and survivors of COVID-19, although the companion legislation required to make it an annual tradition hasn’t yet been introduced in the Senate. Multiple cities and states also have passed local ordinances to the same effect, according to Marked by COVID.

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“Independent of your feelings about how the government has handled the pandemic, a national day of mourning for all the loss seems like a really simple thing we can all agree on,” Freyer-Jones said. “Given what everyone has walked through, whether you’ve lost someone or not, a national day of mourning would be very healing for many, many people.”

The U.S. death toll from the virus surpassed 500,000 on Monday, and roughly 512,000 people have now died.


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