On the evening of Tuesday, January 19th, 2021, 400 lights were lit around the border of the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial in honor of the 400,000 lives lost to COVID-19 in the U.S.
President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris hosted the event, and both made speeches. A masked and socially distanced crowd gathered to hear their inspiring messages, as well as the songs “Amazing Grace” sung by nurse Lori Key and “Hallelujah” sung by Yolanda Adams.
The nation was asked to come together for a “national moment of unity and remembrance” at 5:30 p.m. by ringing church bells, illuminating buildings, and lighting candles. The Empire State Building in New York and the Space Needle in Seattle are among the buildings that were lit up for the event.
This isn’t the first time COVID-19 victims have been memorialized in our country. When the death toll surpassed the 200,000 mark in September of 2020, volunteers placed 20,000 flags on the National Mall in their memory. Other smaller memorials have cropped up across the nation as well. But this event, which reminds us of the hope that 2021 brings, is likely the most prominent and memorable event of its kind thus far.
“This is an iconic vista of heroes and honor and of memorialization,” says history professor Micki McElya, who wrote the book The Politics of Mourning: Death and Honor in Arlington National Cemetery. “It’s impossible to consider that terrain without also thinking of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.”
The work of many people was necessary to make this memorial come to life, but it’s a reminder of how much we all need each other during these difficult times. The world has gone through a lot in the last year, but we’ve come together and done what we had to do to get through it. Hopefully, our newfound neighborly attitudes can help us find closure and peace as we continue to work toward an end to the pandemic while also mourning those we lost along the way.
In the video below, take a moment of silence as you listen to Yolanda Adams’s rendition of “Hallelujah” and think about the many thousands of lives the lights around the reflecting pool represent.