The coronavirus has changed the way we say goodbye
The coronavirus has killed more than 250,000 nationwide. In New York City, the toll is approaching 25,000.
For friends and family members of those lost, the pandemic has changed the way they say goodbye.
Our rituals around death have been interrupted: We can’t come together or share in person. Mourning collectively and forging ahead have become all the more difficult.
While a virtual event is not a substitute for in-person gathering, THE CITY, along with a handful of community partners, want to bring New Yorkers together to tell and listen to the stories of those we’ve lost to COVID-19.
The goal: to remember and celebrate those we’ve lost through their stories.
Disparities in death just as there are in life
MISSING THEM launched in May as deaths rose in New York City, illuminating disparities in illnesses and deaths. These disparities in COVID-19 also extended to who is publicly memorialized.
In our research, we found that deaths of some groups hardest hit by coronavirus — including black and Hispanic residents and recent immigrants living in poorer and more densely populated neighborhoods in The Bronx and Queens — often go unnoticed by anyone other than their families, coworkers, and friends.
The publicized deaths skew male and younger. They also disproportionately come from wealthier enclaves of the city than the general population felled by the virus.
So far, reporters on the project, with its partners from Boston College, Columbia Journalism School, the Craig Newmark School of Journalism at CUNY, and 30 independent volunteers, have verified nearly 2,000 names of New Yorkers, written almost 200 obituaries, and talked to hundreds of families.
Giving back… in a small way
We are inviting families and friends to share something — whether it’s a memory, a song lyric, a poem or whatever feels appropriate — to honor those no longer with us.
Our hope is that telling these stories in some small way will create avenues of connection and bring some comfort for those speaking and those bearing witness.
In addition to the hundreds of families we’ve talked to, through our Open Newsroom initiative, we heard from the wider community of New Yorkers about how the pandemic has stripped their ability to connect, come together and grieve collectively -- whether folks have specifically lost a loved one or are just feeling the weight of the isolation.
Our hope is that providing this space will help bring folks together, and to find some connection during a time when that’s incredibly hard to come by.
The event will also include a reflection period to provide a space to share personal experiences in a small group setting that’s supported by facilitators from THE CITY’s Open Newsroom.
Share, listen, and connect with New Yorkers
Join us to share, listen, and connect with New Yorkers during this time. There are many ways to participate. Review our event page or sign up here.
If you’d like to share a story or memory of someone you lost, let us know. If you’re apprehensive about sharing but want to talk to someone, we can connect you with one of our partners to coach you through the process. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While the program will be predominately in English, we are inviting families to tell stories in whatever language they would like. Some of the programming may be offered in Spanish, upon request.
Schedule of events
Friday, Dec. 11, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET
- 6 p.m: Opening remarks
- 6:30 - 7:45 p.m.: MISSING THEM Memorial Event Kickoff: Holding Space for Grief Poetry Reading, featuring poets Ellen Bass, Ross Gay and Aracelis Girmay.
- 7:45 - 8:00 p.m.: Celebrating Life: Video presented by Brooklyn Public Library of New Yorkers who created a composite poem of the obituaries written for THE CITY’s MISSING THEM memorial.
Saturday, Dec. 12, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET
- 10 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.: Writing Your Grief and Celebrating Life: A Writing Workshop with What Will the Neighbors Say? + THE CITY
- 1 p.m.: Opening remarks
- 1:30 - 2:30 p.m.: Mental & Spiritual Health Roundtable on Grief and Trauma
- 2:30 - 3:30 p.m.: Connect & Reflect: Living and Grieving Through the Pandemic with The Open Newsroom + LVN
- 4 - 7 p.m.: Sharing Stories Of Loss And Life During COVID
Sunday, Dec. 13, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. ET
- 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.: A Writing Workshop on Memory, Absence and Grief with Jay Deshpande presented by Brooklyn Public Library + THE CITY
- 12 p.m.: Opening remarks
- 12:30 - 2:30 p.m.: Memorials in New York: Here's How People Are Remembering
- 2:30 - 4 p.m.: Grief and Life: What Will the Neighbors Say? performs community stories reflecting on grief and life during COVID-19
Who is helping us
The memorial event will feature storytelling performances, poetry readings, writing and poetry workshops, music, video tributes, and more. The MISSING THEM memorial event is in partnership with Brooklyn Public Library, What Will The Neighbors Say? Theatre Company, Local Voices Network, Interfaith Center of New York, and independent performers, actors, and poets.