November 17, 2021
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As Maine Considers A Covid Memorial, Here’s How Other Parts Of The World Are Remembering The Pandemic’s Victims

Topline

Maine lawmakers are considering creating a memorial for the state’s victims of the Covid-19 pandemic following a proposal from Democratic state senator Ben Chipman, joining the many communities around the world who are trying to figure out the best ways to formally honor those lost to a pandemic that is still far from over.  

Key Facts

Uruguay is leading the pack when it comes to the world’s first large-scale monument, with a $1.5 million project in place to erect a circular structure over the ocean that will be capable of holding 300 people. 

Leading candidates in London’s upcoming mayoral election have both signaled support for a permanent memorial in the city, while a blossom garden in east London’s Olympic Park already marks the anniversary of the first lockdown and a sprawling wall of thousands of hand-drawn hearts marking each life lost has sprung up.     

New York City is considering Hart Island as the site for a memorial—a 19th century public burial site that, in addition to potentially a tenth of the city’s Covid victims, already houses those who died during the Spanish Flu and the AIDS crisis.

In February, the small down of Codogno, Italy opened a monument in recognition of the country’s first case of local transmission and one of its first victims. 

In September, Brazil unveiled the Infinity Memorial in a Rio de Janeiro cemetery where many Covid victims are buried—the names of those who have died are to be etched into the 39-meter metal ribbon.

In addition to permanent installations, of which many more are expected to come, more ephemeral memorials have been deployed, including thousands of handmade felt roses in Los Angeles and President Joe Biden’s lights around the Lincoln Memorial in January.  

Key Background

Diseases rarely receive the kind of permanent commemoration afforded to those lost in wars or other tragedies. There are barely any monuments to the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, for example, which is believed to have infected a third of the world’s population and claimed at least 50 million lives, many more than World War I. Monuments to those lost in the AIDS crisis are perhaps an exception to this, with the Memorial Quilt being one of the most prominent examples.

Surprising Fact

Even those who assist in the eradication of disease are often sidelined in favor of military figures when it comes to commemoration. Edward Jenner, who developed the vaccination technique ultimately used to eradicate smallpox, was once honored with a special place in London’s Trafalgar Square. After the death of Prince Albert–Queen Victoria’s husband who was  a supporter of Jenners– the scientist’s statue was moved to a quiet place in Kensington Gardens. Politicians claimed Jenner’s achievements did not warrant a place among Britain’s military heroes.    

Further Reading

Maine eyes creation of COVID-19 memorial (AP News)

How Will the Future Remember COVID-19? (The Atlantic)

Hardly Any 1918 Flu Memorials Exist. Will We Remember COVID-19 Differently? (NPR)

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