MISSING THEM Commemorates Three Years With Exhibitions in The Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens
THE CITY’s crowdsourced COVID-19 memorial will close to new entries at the end of this month, but our commitment to reporting on the pandemic’s effects will continue.
In the spring of 2020, as the city shut down, THE CITY’s MISSING THEM project set out with a goal: to record the name of every New Yorker who died of COVID-19 and tell a story about their life. Since then, COVID has killed more than 45,000 New Yorkers — forever changing families, neighborhoods and lives.
Crowdsourcing names and stories from across the five boroughs, the project has published more than 500 obituaries and recorded another 2,100 names of New Yorkers who died of COVID. Meanwhile, MISSING THEM has led to accountability stories documenting the pandemic response in city jails, in nursing homes and on Hart Island — the city’s potter’s field, where an estimated 1 in 10 New Yorkers who died of COVID in 2020 are buried. Alongside this investigative journalism, the project has produced in-depth guides on navigating grief and getting help for long COVID in New York City.
Now, three years on, MISSING THEM has partnered with Photoville — a nonprofit that produces public art displays — to bring photographs and obituaries from the digital memorial to community spaces around the city. We hope that this constellation of stories puts faces and names to the devastating loss of life, and helps New Yorkers heal.
We invite you to visit. These public art exhibitions will be on display through Memorial Day weekend and are located in Elmhurst, Queens and the South Bronx — two neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by COVID — as well as Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.
- Moore Homestead Park, Broadway and 45th Ave. and 82nd St., Queens, NY 11373
- 620 Courtland Ave, Bronx NY, 10455 (Outside the Bronx Documentary Center)
- Bronx Community Garden, 360 E. 151st, Bronx, NY 10455
- Green-Wood Cemetery, 25th Street and 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11232
The Brooklyn exhibition is part of “The Many Losses From COVID,” a community art memorial organized by City Lore and Naming The Lost Memorials, with support from the Mellon Foundation.
Naming The Lost is hosting a free memorial dedication ceremony open to the public this Thursday, May 11 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. in front of Green-Wood’s Historic Chapel. The program will involve a procession, drumming, singing and opportunities to remember loved ones who died of COVID-19.
Dina Buttner lost her father John Buttner, 77, after a COVID infection in April 2020. Like so many families, Dina’s family was unable to hold a funeral. Dina and her mom recently visited the MISSING THEM exhibition in Queens, where John is featured, and “read each and every story,” Dina wrote in an email to THE CITY’s team.
“What you did for all of us who lost someone to Covid was absolutely amazing. You not only gave these individuals who suffered recognition but gave the families some sort of peace as these people couldn’t be with their families when they needed them most and couldn’t even have proper burials they all deserved,” Dina wrote. “It brought tears to our eyes.”
Shyvonne Noboa’s grandfather Tobias Noboa died from COVID in May 2020 at the age of 82. For Shyvonne, the MISSING THEM memorials — both digital and physical — have offered a meaningful way to honor his life.
“I truly thank you for memorializing our loved ones,” Shyvonne wrote after visiting the exhibition in Queens, where Tobias is featured. “I met the Vice President and shared with her the link to the memorial so she could read about my grandpa.”
Vice President Kamala Harris responded with a personal letter to Shyvonne, expressing her condolences. “As a hardworking immigrant who dedicated his life to caring for those around him, Tobias embodied the spirit of our Nation. And as you said in a quote for the Missing Them memorial, ‘He put his family first,’” Harris wrote. “I’m glad that Tobias is being honored at the Queens location of the Missing Them memorial, and I am sure that his story will inspire those who visit.”
For Wendy Garcia, who lost her brother Errol Ramsaroop in April 2020 at age 56, the community memorial in Queens also provided a moment of healing. “As much as it was emotional to see my deceased brother and the others it was a thoughtful gesture and made our healing more at rest! It is well in our soul now and it’s more meaningful to us all,” Garcia wrote. “Thank you for thinking of us.”
For the past three years, MISSING THEM has been made possible by hundreds of New Yorkers who, in the midst of their grief, took the time to share memories big and small about their loved ones. Just as these three community memorials celebrate this collaborative effort, they also mark the close of a chapter for the MISSING THEM project, which will stop taking submissions for new names and stories on May 31.
Our digital memorial will continue to be accessible to the public on THE CITY’s website. The team is also working to archive the collection of stories to ensure it is preserved for decades to come.
Even as the U.S. public health emergency expires, it’s clear that COVID and its long-term impacts are here to stay. Thousands of families are missing loved ones, coping with long COVID, and confronting the structural inequities the pandemic laid bare. With this in mind, THE CITY will continue its rigorous reporting on health, housing, transportation, city government and more — ever committed to reporting by and for New Yorkers.
We’ve heard from community members just how important MISSING THEM has been as a means of grieving and gathering. So, we’d also like to invite you to join our team for an event later this month.
We’ll be hosting a community gathering at the MISSING THEM memorial in the South Bronx on Sunday, May 21 from 2 to 5 p.m. with the Bronx Documentary Center. The event will mark the close of the exhibition, remember loved ones lost to COVID, and provide a chance for families to visit if they haven’t yet.
There will be a live theatrical performance of excerpts from the play “MISSING THEM” put on by Working Theater, and guests will be invited to share their stories and reflections. This gathering will take place at the BDC Annex at 364 E. 151st St., The Bronx, NY 10455, and light refreshments will be served.
To submit a name of a family member or friend lost to COVID before the end of month, you can fill out the form here. In the meantime, if you’d like to share feedback and reflections about the project, we’d love to hear from you at email@example.com.
MISSING THEM is supported, in part, by the Brown Institute for Media Innovation at Columbia Journalism School.