As of today, more than 105,000 Americans have died from Covid-19 since February, more than all combat deaths in every war involving the United States since the Korean War. To mourn the stunning loss, faith leaders have ecumenically joined in a call for a National Day of Mourning and Lament today. Many governments have embraced the call, among them Palm Coast.
Even as the nation is convulsed by grief, protest and violence for a seventh day over the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, the nation will pause today at noon to “reflect, pray, mourn and honor all those we have lost and to comfort all those they have left behind,” in the words of the Palm Coast proclamation, while “looking forward, to focus on repairing the injustices the pandemic has so painfully revealed.”
The city issued the proclamation Sunday under the signature of Mayor Milissa Holland. Other council members learned of it since.
“It’s perfectly appropriate, I think it’s a good thing for everybody to keep in mind,” Council member Bob Cuff said this morning. “Since it is at least in my lifetime a unique experience, I can’t say one way is better than another. I know people who have been confined to hospitals and assisted living facilities and who were separated from their families and friends, so I understand the desire of people to make a community-wide showing of support and sympathy for the families of those who have died. I wasn’t aware that this was being done until yesterday, and I’m a little sorry that it didn’t get a bit more–I hate to use the term publicity when you’re talking about an event intended to be a public expression of mourning–but it hasn’t been better publicized, I guess, that people don’t have a little more notice of it so they can participate if they are so inclined.” He paused, and said: “Perhaps it was drowned out by the events in Minneapolis and the rest of the country in the last few days.”
The proclamation notes how the pandemic has often made it impossible for families and friends to bury their dead or gather in houses of worship. The Day of Mourning is itself a reflection of the limitations still in effect: there is no event organized in Palm Coast, no commemoration at City Hall or before any memorials. There isn’t even a virtual event. The commemoration is tied only to the noon hour, and intended to encourage residents anywhere and everywhere to pause as in a moment of silence, whether by taking to the streets in front of their home or going to a public place, or briefly stopping work.
“Many clergy, imams, rabbis and priests and pastors have pointed out to us that most of these hundred thousand people have died mostly alone, without the usual loved ones gathered around them,” Rev. Jim Wallis, the theologian and founder of Sojourner magazine, said on NPR Sunday. Wallis is among the originators of the Day of Mourning. “And the pain of that is overwhelming. And so tomorrow, we will take our faith to the streets, and in this case, the virtual streets of this nation, where mayors and interfaith clergy will acknowledge this moment.”
Palm Coast’s proclamation echoes Wallis’s words about communal mourning. “To meet this need,” it reads, “religious communities across faiths are acting in unity, gathering together safely to mourn, memorialize, and remember the lives of those we have lost, both in our diverse faith traditions and in our public squares, and to pray for the healing of our nation.”