Empty chairs sit on Ellipse near White House in remembrance of those who died of COVID-19

covid memorial
Twenty thousand empty chairs are set up on the Ellipse south of the White House with each one representing roughly 10 people who have died from COVID-19.

covid memorial
The National COVID-19 Remembrance Project placed 20,000 empty chairs on the Ellipse on October 4, 2020 near the White House.

covid memorial
The COVID-19 National Remembrance Ceremony took place in D.C. on Sunday, memorializing the 200,000 people who lost their lives to the disease.

covid memorial
covid memorial
covid memorial

Thousands gathered both in person and virtually on Sunday afternoon to mourn the more than 200,000 lives lost in the U.S. from COVID-19.

Twenty thousand empty chairs were set up on the Ellipse south of the White House in D.C. this weekend, with each one representing roughly 10 people who have died from the coronavirus.

Musical tributes and a call to action from Grammy award-winning singer and former U.S. Ambassador for Health Dionne Warwick were part of a national remembrance ceremony put together by the group COVID Survivors for change.

“We are all in pain because we have lost so much,” Warwick said during the ceremony.

The hour-long event, which was streamed online, included an interfaith call for a national moment of silence, live and recorded tributes featuring musical performances by artists and speakers and memorial tributes featuring the names and stories of loved ones lost to COVID-19. 

“It takes all of us to raise our voices. We know we can’t always rely on the folks in charge to hear us unless we say it loudly and clearly,” Warwick said.

Sabila Khan’s father was one of the more than 200,000 names scrolling on the screen during the ceremony of those who died from COVID-19.

She told WTOP that Shafqat died in New Jersey at the age of 76 on April 14, seven days after contracting COVID-19.

“There is a tsunami of grief in this country right now,” said Khan.

Khan co-founded a private Facebook group to connect with those going through a similar loss. The group has more than 2,500 members.

She said she was grateful to have a chance to see her father’s name at the ceremony but it still brought back the pain of losing him.

“It’s really hard to come to terms with the fact that my father is part of this running tally,” Khan said. “As reassuring and lovely a gesture as it is, it is very very sad to see that this is what happened to my dad, that this is how he left.”

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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