New Orleans and the country remember those lost to COVID-19

Biden and Harris join national commemoration on the eve of their inauguration

By: - January 20, 2021 6:00 am

In this photo from Jan. 19, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell speaks at a commemoration service for those who died of COVID-19 in New Orleans. (Screenshot)

Of the more than 400,000 people who’ve died of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 8,300 who’ve died in Louisiana, more than 700 have died in New Orleans. City officials commemorated the city’s deaths Tuesday as President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris commemorated the country’s immense loss on the eve of their inauguration.

“None of us could have imagined the state of our nation — and world for that matter — that we find ourselves in right now,” New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said at the Tuesday afternoon ceremony.  The mayor said that “on the front end, we were told that we could lose thousands” but her administration worked hard, she said, and “We know that we saved lives. However, the 700 that we’ve lost will never come back, but the love that we have for them and their loved ones have for them, it will never diminish at all.”

Cities around the country held memorials to their COVID-19 dead Tuesday.

Donald Trump, the outgoing president, never held a memorial service for the Americans who died as the pandemic raged.  

At the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in Washington, Biden said that remembering the dead is necessary.  “To heal, we must remember. It’s hard sometimes to remember, but that’s how we heal. It’s important to do that as a nation. That’s why we’re here today. Between sundown and dusk, let us shine the lights in the darkness, along the sacred pool of reflection, and remember all whom we lost.”

Cantrell said her administration and the New Orleans City Council “have allocated proper resources to ensure that we have a permanent exhibit for our loved ones” but participated in an event Tuesday “because we wanted to make sure that our people were highlighted in a transition that will be transformative for this country on tomorrow, that we will be fully represented, and our loved ones will stand tall within our hearts and within our minds.”

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Jarvis DeBerry
Jarvis DeBerry

Jarvis DeBerry, former editor of the Louisiana Illuminator, spent 22 years at The Times-Picayune (and later as a crime and courts reporter, an editorial writer, columnist and deputy opinions editor. He was on the team of Times-Picayune journalists awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service after that team’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the deadly flood that followed. In addition to the shared Pulitzer, DeBerry has won awards from the Louisiana Bar Association for best trial coverage and awards from the New Orleans Press Club, the Louisiana/ Mississippi Associated Press and the National Association of Black Journalists for his columns. A collection of his Times-Picayune columns, “I Feel to Believe” was published by the University of New Orleans Press in September 2020.