Covid Memorial Day – Press Release 18.01.21

Covid Memorial Day USA


Americans come together to remember those lost to COVID-19 

  • 19 January – A call to people across the United States to share their individual and collective grief

A year after COVID-19 was first identified, people across US and beyond will come together in a day of collective grief for the hundreds of thousands of Americans lost to the pandemic.

As well as tuning into the national event from the Lincoln Memorial, people are being encouraged to take a moment to themselves or with loved ones to mark #CovidMemorialDay with a vigil or an individual act of remembrance.

“For one day, the people of America will not just be united in states, they will also be united in grief,” said Stefan Simanowitz, a journalist who is encouraging Americans to allow themselves to feel the loss.

“Shakespeare warns that if we fail to ‘give sorrow words the grief will o-er wrought heart and bid it break’. Covid Memorial Day is a day to give our sorrow words.”

Covid Memorial Day is intended to give people – whether directly affected by a bereavement or not – a moment to grieve. People are invited to light a candle, put it in their window, tie a ribbon, carry a pebble to a hilltop or just sit by the sea or on a bench and reflect.

Joe Biden
Joe Biden will lead a service for the more than 380,000 American lives lost to the coronavirus

The day will culminate at 5.30pm EST (GMT-5) in an official “national moment of unity and remembrance” with the ringing of church bells across America. On the eve of his inauguration, Joe Biden will lead a service for the more than 380,000 American lives lost to the coronavirus. There will be a lighting ceremony around the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool along the National Mall in Washington.

“In the midst of a pandemic – when so many Americans are grieving the loss of family, friends, and neighbours —-it is important that we honour those who have died, reflect on what has been one of the more challenging periods in the nation’s history, and renew our commitment to coming together to end the pandemic and rebuild our nation,” Inauguration Committee spokesman Pili Tobar said in a statement.

Lincoln Pool Washington

Sparked by the recognition that, in the words of grief expert, David Kessler, “grief must be witnessed”, COVID Memorial Day was set up in the UK last year with services and vigils held on 5 September. 

On 1 January a global Covid Memorial Day saw tens of thousands of candles lit in squares in cities from London to Amsterdam to Stuttgart and vigils held around the world.

“Over the last year many of us have been touched by grief either directly or indirectly and collective grieving is important both for our own mental well-being as well as being support for others,” says TV behavioural psychologist, Jo Hemmings, who is helping to coordinate Covid Memorial Day.

“Covid Memorial Day is a day when you can light a candle, take a pebble to the top of a hill or simply sit and reflect on those you have lost. A united moment when we can all acknowledge and express our personal of loss as well as the share grief of so many others.”

Amsterdam vigil
Amsterdam vigil September 2020

Whilst some nations have had national memorials – Spain for example had a 10-day remembrance period – this will be the first moment that Americans have come together to share their collective pain. Around the world, people are also requested to take a moment to think of those lost on 19 January and there will be small vigils outside some US embassies (for example London, 5.30pm).

“It is important to remember that grief is the flip side of love. If you have not loved, you cannot great and the more you deeply you love, the more painful the grief,” said Stefan Simanowitz.

“One doesn’t recover from grief. If you are lucky, you heal from grief. But never completely. Unless we process our grief it can turn into anger or depression. We have seen a lot of that in America over the last year.”

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#CovidMemorialDay is an idea, not an organisation or a campaign

It was set up by Stefan Simanowitz in July 2020 and he invited various groups to work with him including faith and community groups, bereaved families organisations and have arranged other COVID memorial events including a global Covid Memorial Day on 1st January which saw vigils around the world.

A UK #CovidMemorialDay was held on 5 September (6 months after the first COVID death) with vigils and services around the country.

There will be a bigger Covid Memorial Day UK on 5 March to mark one year since the first COVID death in Britain. There are also plans for a Covid Memorial Garden in London, a Covid Memorial Statue and a Covid Memorial Quilt

In Amsterdam in August, a vigil in Dam Square saw 10,000 candles lit to commemorate each of the Dutch people taken by coronavirus. 

PLEASE NOTE: #CovidMemorialDay is an entirely non-political event. 

Covid Memorial Day is like a saloon in a Western, where everyone is everyone has to take off their gun belt before then can enter.