COVID-19 memorial returns to Green-Wood Cemetery

Green-Wood COVID-19 memorial
An interactive memorial to those who died from COVID-19 returns to Green-Wood Cemetery on June 8.
Erik McGregor

Green-Wood Cemetery is bringing back an interactive memorial honoring those who died from COVID-19. “We Remember: A Community COVID Memorial” will live at the storied burial ground along 200 feet of the old wrought-iron gates at Fifth Avenue and 25th Street for nearly three weeks starting June 8.

“All of us at Green-Wood have seen, firsthand, the toll that COVID-19 has taken on family, friends, our community and even our industry,” graveyard president Richard Moylan announced Friday. “This beautiful living memorial gives us a special place to remember what they meant to us and how they each made this world a better place.”

The project is in collaboration with artist-activist group Naming the Lost Memorials, who set up a similar shrine at the height of the outbreak last year in an effort to humanize a soaring death toll beyond the statistics.

As the coronavirus ravaged the city, the 19th-century cemetery other final resting places in the borough grappled with a surge in burials and cremations and were forced to cap the number of bodies they could receive each day.

A year later, as case numbers are on the decline and New Yorkers are getting vaccinated, it’s crucial to remember the hundreds of thousands who have perished from the virus — including a total 33,199 in the Five Boroughs as of Friday — noted one folklorist working on the installation.

“Even as New Yorkers begin to feel the joys of opening, the pandemic rages on in other parts of the world,” said Kay Turner. “It’s not over. Nor is the sense of loss we feel knowing that 600,000 of our loved ones in the United States are gone from us. Mourning and remembrance are still necessary acts.”

The group gathered contributions from more than 20 community organizations and members of the public can add their own tributes to the fence once the installation launches next month. 

Opening night will start at 6 pm with a procession beginning at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 31st Street before heading to the meadow inside main entrance at 25th Street for a drum call, poetry, and making of memorial name plates.

A dedication will follow and at 8 pm there will be music and candles at the site, according to the burial ground’s staff.

“We Remember: A Community COVID Memorial” at Green-Wood Cemetery [500 25th St., at Fifth Avenue in Greenwood Heights, (718) 768–7300, www.green-wood.com]. June 8-28. Opening dedication on June 8, 6-9 pm, starting with a procession at 31st Street. Free.