Vigils can help us recover from pandemic

Saugus Board of Selectmen Vice Chair Corinne Riley’s proposal for a local vigil to remember COVID-19 victims is an important step for individuals, families and the community to recover from the pandemic.

Town public health statistics as of last week counted 72 Saugus residents killed by COVID-19 since last March. Riley is talking to town officials about organizing the memorial vigil at Town Hall some time after Labor Day so “the community can stand together and remember,” Riley said. 

Her description of why a vigil is important points out that this event is not only a chance to remember those lost; it is also an opportunity to stand together and consider the pandemic’s toll. 

With mask wearing, social distancing and vaccinations driving virus-case rates down, the natural inclination is to look ahead to a return to normalcy marked by unmasked smiles and freedom of movement. 

A vigil ensures that normalcy — however it is defined in a post-pandemic world — is embraced only after the loss of 72 Saugus residents and hundreds of thousands of other people around the world are remembered.

Their deaths left scars on family members, friends, co-workers and those pandemic survivors who were denied the opportunity, as Riley noted, to say goodbye to their loved ones in their final moments. Safety protocols enacted during the pandemic have also redefined the way funerals and wakes are held. 

Standing together and remembering is also an opportunity for people to acknowledge the sacrifices they made to tamp down COVID-19’s spread and the cooperative effort most people embraced to fight the pandemic. 

Just as the nation’s major military victories were marked by parades, the hoped-for victory of vaccines over the pandemic offers a somber opportunity to remember the rapid changes everyone was forced to make in the battle against COVID-19. 

Workplace closings, social-gathering bans, working and learning at home were sacrifices marked by stress, financial insecurity and disorientation. Riley defined the pandemic’s brutal toll correctly when she described COVID-19 victims as ” …those who were taken from us.”

A vigil is a chance to remember people lost to the pandemic and an opportunity to reflect on the lessons learned from the pandemic, not only in Saugus but around the globe.

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