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MISSING THEM: A Three-Day Event to Honor the Memories of New Yorkers Lost to COVID-19

Join THE CITY online Dec. 11-13 to tell and listen to stories about those felled by the coronavirus. The goal: to remember and celebrate lives at a time when the pandemic has changed the way we say goodbye.

Some of the New Yorkers who have passed away from COVID-19.
Some of the New Yorkers who have passed away from the COVID-19.
THE CITY

The coronavirus has killed more than 250,000 nationwide. In New York City, the toll is approaching 25,000.

For friends and family members of those lost, the pandemic has changed the way they say goodbye.

Our rituals around death have been interrupted: We can’t come together or share in person. Mourning collectively and forging ahead have become all the more difficult.

While a virtual event is not a substitute for in-person gathering, THE CITY, along with a handful of community partners, want to bring New Yorkers together to tell and listen to the stories of those we’ve lost to COVID-19.

The goal: to remember and celebrate lives cut short by the pandemic.

Starting on Friday, Dec. 11, and running through Sunday, Dec. 13, please join THE CITY for a MISSING THEM memorial virtual event. For more details, a schedule and to sign up, go here to see our event page on Reimagine.

The free event marks an extension of THE CITY’s ambitious MISSING THEM project, an effort to name every New Yorker lost to the coronavirus and tell a story about them.

We are inviting families and friends to share something — a memory, a song lyric, a poem or whatever feels appropriate — to honor those no longer with us.

Our hope is that telling these stories in some small way will create avenues of connection and bring some comfort for those speaking and those bearing witness.

If you’re apprehensive about sharing but want to talk to someone, we can connect you with one of our partners to coach you through the process. You can contact us at memorial@thecity.nyc.

Readings and Other Tributes

The memorial event will feature storytelling performances, poetry readings, writing and poetry workshops, music, video tributes and more. The MISSING THEM memorial event is in partnership with Brooklyn Public Library, What Will The Neighbors Say? Theatre Company, Local Voices Network, Reimagine and independent performers, actors and poets.

The event will also include a reflection period to provide a space to share personal experiences in a small group setting that’s supported by facilitators from THE CITY’s Open Newsroom team.

While the program will be predominately in English, we are inviting families to tell stories in whatever language they would like. Some of the programming may be offered in Spanish, upon request.

Writers, actors, poets and THE CITY reporters will read obituaries collected from the MISSING THEM project.

Who is publicly memorialized?

MISSING THEM launched in May as deaths rose in New York City, illuminating disparities in illnesses and deaths. These COVID-19 disparities also extended to who is publicly memorialized.

Our research found that deaths of some groups hardest hit by coronavirus — including black and Hispanic residents and recent immigrants living in poorer and more densely populated neighborhoods in The Bronx and Queens — often go unnoticed beyond their families, coworkers and friends.

The publicized deaths skew male and younger. They also disproportionately come from wealthier enclaves of the city than the general population felled by the virus.

So far, reporters on the project, with its partners from Boston College, Columbia Journalism School, the Craig Newmark School of Journalism at CUNY and 30 independent volunteers, have verified nearly 2,000 names of New Yorkers, written almost 200 obituaries and talked to hundreds of families.

If you’d like to join us to tell a story, to listen to stories or to attend the performances, go to Reimagine to see the schedule so far and sign up.

Schedule of events

Friday, Dec. 11, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET

  • 6 p.m.: Opening remarks
  • 6:30 p.m. - 7:45 p.m.: Holding Space for Grief Poetry Reading, featuring poets Ellen Bass, Ross Gay and Aracelis Girmay.
  • 7:45 p.m.-8 p.m.: Celebrating Life: Video presented by Brooklyn Public Library of New Yorkers who created a composite poem of the obituaries written for THE CITY’s MISSING THEM memorial.

Sign up for the full evening here.

Saturday, Dec. 12, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET

  • 10 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.: Writing Your Grief and Celebrating Life: A writing workshop with What Will The Neighbors Say? and THE CITY (Sign up here)
  • 1 p.m.: Opening remarks
  • 1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.: A Mental and Spiritual Health Roundtable (Sign up here)
  • 2:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.: Reflection Circle: The Open Newsroom and partners hold conversations with New Yorkers about grieving during the pandemic (Sign up here)
  • 4 p.m. - 7 p.m.: Families & Friends Share Their Stories Of Loss During COVID (Sign up here)

Sunday, Dec. 13, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. ET

  • 10 a.m. - Noon: Poetry Master Class presented by Brooklyn Public Library: A workshop on writing about personal trauma and loss during the pandemic (Sign up here)
  • Noon: Opening remarks
  • 12:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.: Memorials in New York: Here’s How People Are Remembering: MISSING THEM is part of a number of organizations creating memorials in New York to remember those who died due to COVID. Some of these groups come together to talk about this work. (Sign up here)
  • 2:30 p.m. - 4 p.m.: Our Grief and Our Lives: What Will the Neighbors Say? performs community stories reflecting on grief and life during COVID-19 (Sign up here)

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