More than 30,000 New Yorkers lost their lives to COVID-19 and THE CITY, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, digital news platform, is helping to keep their memories alive. The organization has recently launched Missing Them, a digital memorial project. It is a collaboration between THE CITY, Columbia Journalism School, Boston College, the Craig Newmark School of Journalism at CUNY, and volunteers. The aim is to remember and honor every person out of the more than 30,000 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths in New York: every New Yorker who died, who they were, and what they meant to this city.
The Mayor’s office hosted a citywide day of remembrance on the one-year anniversary of the first known COVID-19 death in New York (March 14, 2020). Many of the photographs projected onto the Brooklyn Bridge were taken from the Missing Them project, with permission from families. All over New York City, there have been other memorials as well. In honor of World Health Day, LinkNYC partnered with ARTHOUSE.NYC to present The HERO ART PROJECT which honors medical providers from around the world who have lost their lives while fighting COVID-19. In the subway, the MTA created a digital memorial in honor of the 136 employees who have died from COVID-19.
Among the more than 2,000 names the project has collected so far, you can find the story of Phyllis Beatrice Antonetz, who passed away at the age of 103. Her obituary from the Hartford Courant reads: “A lifelong New York Yankees fan, she approached every day with an optimistic spirit. She believed in a positive attitude, even on a rainy day, she would emanate a feeling of sunshine that radiated a spirit of hope, love, and faith. She believed in reaching out to family and friends and demonstrated that the best exercise of the human heart is reaching down and picking someone up.” One of the youngest victims is Shaimeek Raijeen Frazier, 21. She was born and raised in Washington Heights and moved to the Bronx at 19. A “fashionista,” according to her mother, she was preparing to attend nursing school. As the pandemic worsened in New York City, Frazier continued to go to work at Mighty Quinn’s BBQ, “just doing what a motivated 21-year-old would,” said her father.
These stories, which are so painful, are stories of our family and community members, neighbors, friends or coworkers. Representative Grace Meng pointed out: “On the one-year anniversary of New York City’s first known COVID-19 death, we mourn for those whose lives were tragically taken from us and the hundreds of thousands who have been infected by the virus. Over 30,000 New Yorkers succumbed to this terrible pandemic, and because of this virus, families have been unable to properly bury their loved ones. My heart breaks for those who were taken too soon, and the families whose lives will never be the same. We take this day to honor their memories and commit to building a more just and equitable society.”
You can help to tell the story of every New Yorker whose life was cut short because of the pandemic. Obituary pages are missing names and stories, especially among members of Black and Latino communities, which have been impacted by the virus at disproportionately high rates. To date, the project has identified about 7% of those who died of the illness. If you have lost someone due to the coronavirus and would like them memorialized, you can send an email to [email protected] or submit a name on the project’s website using this form. On the Missing Them website, you can search through the stories of New Yorkers lost to COVID-19 by their name, borough, age, date of death and occupation.