Haskell Proposes COVID Memorial

State Senator — and Staples High School Class of 2014 graduate — Will Haskell writes:

I was 5years-old on September 11, 2001 when my mom picked me up early from school and we drove to Sherwood Island State Park. Standing on the shores of Long Island Sound, we stared silently across the water and saw the smoke rising from lower Manhattan.

Today, Sherwood Island is home to Connecticut’s 9/11 memorial, a 9-foot, commemorative granite stone, etched with the names of fathers, mothers, siblings and friends who were lost 19 years ago.

The 9/11 memorial at Sherwood Island State Park honors the names of all Connecticut residents killed on 9/11. Several were from Westport. (Photo/David Squires)

As a state and a community, we build public memorials to help us process the catastrophes we witness and the holes they leave in our hearts. They serve as reminders to subsequent generations that life is precious and subject to the most unexpected and uncommon disruptions.

This year, I am proposing legislation for the creation of a Connecticut COVID-19 memorial.

COVID-19, of course, is a different sort of tragedy. It has ended lives in lonely ICU units, forced families to say farewell over FaceTime and required healthcare workers to put their lives on the line to keep others safe. The necessities of social distancing has limited our ability to gather for funerals or memorial services. The chaos of 2020 — from learning how to educate students over Zoom to tracking the development and distribution of vaccines — have pulled attention away from the enormity of the loss that our state has experienced.

As we entered 2021, Connecticut surpassed 6,000 lives lost due to the virus: greater than the total number of state casualties from both world wars. Indeed, in the nearly 400 year arc of Connecticut’s history, it’s challenging to think of any equivalent concentration of strife or personal tragedy. The victims of this pandemic, their families, and the healthcare workers who served them in their final moments, deserve a permanent monument of remembrance.

The coronavirus is a worldwide tragedy. Staples High School graduate and Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Tyler Hicks captured this makeshift cemetery in Brazil, for the New York Times.

This month, I will introduce a bill calling for the Connecticut Office of Public Arts to initiate a process for members of the public to submit proposals for a memorial. A committee of sculptors, architects, and landscapers would then review the submissions and select a fitting tribute. The end goal will be a permanent, physical memorial for the victims of COVID-19 that will sit in one of our 139 state parks and forests.

A memorial is not going to end this pandemic or reverse its economic effects. On the list of 2021 legislative priorities, it falls below vaccine distribution, nursing home support, remote learning, and a host of immediate concerns that my colleagues and I will be grappling with in the next few months. But I believe it’s important, in the middle of this sad, strange time, for us to plan our memory of it.

 

4 responses to “Haskell Proposes COVID Memorial

  1. “To Everything There is a Season”. While tragically this is a season of mourning for many who have lost loved ones to the coronavirus, this is also the season for public officials to focus their energies on getting the vaccine into the arms of their constituents. After the end of this pandemic, families and friends will be able to gather together in person for memorial services for those they’ve lost, and we can then consider how we the people of Connecticut should honor and remember them. As always, Sen. Haskell has the best of intentions, and there will be a time for planning and building a public memorial. I hope that time comes soon.

  2. Lawrence Robinson

    I agree and would go further. We are at war, with a mounting casualty list
    and a new and virulent form of the enemy. The State of Connecticut should
    be on a war footing, with 1) an accessible database of realtime testing
    station locations and wait time information, 2) an existing plan and
    organization for delivering vaccinations, and 3) sufficient human and
    organization resources to deliver this with all possible haste. If funding is
    an issue, do what communities at war do, which is to meet the threat and
    fund it later. Then, when the dying stops, it is time to memorialize the
    victims.

  3. Really? A memorial? Spend the money on getting the vaccine into the arms of the elderly, at risk individuals and the first responders…then the rest of us!
    After that….focus on balancing the budgets and restoring sanity to the political process. There will be plenty of time for memorials in the future when we can afford them. Now is not the time.

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