Sometime today the official death toll from the coronavirus in this country is expected to surpass the 500,000 mark. That is the official count. Public health experts say the reality is many more than that.
Half a million people dead is a number that is hard to comprehend. It is more than the number of Americans who died in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam combined. It’s as if the entire population of the city of Atlanta had been wiped out.
When I was a hospice chaplain we held a memorial service twice a year to read the names of our patients who had died during those six months. There were usually about 600 names. Reading them aloud took a long time.
So how long would it take to read aloud the names of every person who had died from Covid-19 in this country in the last 11 months?
Well, every year on September 11 the names of all who died in the terrorist attacks on our nation that date in 2001 are read aloud at the 9/11 Memorial in New York. It takes a little longer than three hours to read slightly fewer than 3,000 names.
So let’s estimate an hour to read 1,000 names (although it probably takes longer). That means 500 hours to say each name aloud. Or put another way, 20 days and 20 hours, nonstop, no breaks. That’s 500,000 names. That’s 500,000 lives.
Of course, that is an impossible task for us. But we can, and should, remember the lives lost in this pandemic. Tonight at 8 we will have a Service of Remembrance, streamed live from the nave. We will light candles, ring the bell, and pray for all those who have died, for those who grieve, for those who have lost their livelihoods.
Please join us.
The service bulletin is attached.