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Different Ways The World Is Commemorating COVID-19's Victims

From a Swiss music box to a Chilean quilt, different projects seek to leave a tangible sign of those we've lost.

 People walk past the COVID-19 Memorial Wall in London, in March 2021.
People walk past the COVID-19 Memorial Wall in London, in March 2021.
Emma Flacard

How do we remember those we've lost to COVID? A year ago, we learned how health restrictions wouldn't allow loved ones to pay their respects at in-person funerals or memorials. Now, with society as a whole facing the sheer scale of the loss of life caused by this pandemic, what can we do to commemorate its countless victims? Since March 2020, people from all over the world have been searching for new ways to pay tribute to the dead. From Switzerland to Mexico, mourners have explored different approaches to commemorating.

  • Switzerland: Telling a dramatic story through music — this was the idea of Swiss journalist Simon Huwiler, who created a music box whose singular tune was based on the daily number of people who lost their lives to the virus since last year, reports SWI swissinfo.ch. The holes in the music paper correspond to COVID victims. The song slowly and swiftly opens up and speeds up from the middle till the end of the song, illustrating the devastating death toll of the first and second waves of the pandemic. The journalist explains his artwork as a means to "make it more visible, to move people."

  • Chile: "To Mend the Pain." This is how a group of Chilean women have named their art project that aims at creating a textile memorial for COVID-19 victims, reports Diario Uchile. After having worked for seven months, trying to reach out to people across the country, the group of women received over 200 pieces of embroidery, and more than 100 people expressed their willingness to take part in this creative memorial. Last Nov. 2, for the annual Day of the Dead rites, a few of them gathered in the city center of Santiago and shared their experiences while displaying the embroideries.

A woman embroidering the name of a COVID-19 victim, in Santiago — Photo: Para Remendar El Dolor Memorial Textil

  • Mexico: In the central city of Teziutlán, a monumental 27-meter cross was erected as a memorial to health workers, COVID victims and their loved ones, reports local media Teziutlán TV. It was inaugurated in February 2021 by the city mayor and families of the victims. The gigantic cross is said to be a "symbol of unity, hope and love of the municipality" and a reminder that there is a collective responsibility to stop the spread of the virus.

  • Britain: 150,000. That's where the COVID-19 death toll has arrived in Britain, as well as the number of hand-drawn red hearts that decorate a wall opposite Westminster, in London, and which stands as a temporary memorial to victims of the pandemic, reports The Guardian. The initiative was led by the group Covid-19 Bereaved Families For Justice UK which has already called for a public inquiry into how the government handled the sanitary crisis.

A man drawing some of the 150,000 hearts. — Photo: Richard Gray/PA Wire​/ ZUMA

  • France: Jean-Jacques Fimbel was in a coma for 17 days and the hospital for more than two months because of COVID-19. When the 61-year-old recovered, he decided to compose his own song to honor victims, reports France 3 Grand Est. The guitar teacher says his 176-second message of hope is for those who, unlike him, did not survive.

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