Clifton Covid-19 Remembrance Ceremony - A Somber Tribute
On a cool, sunny Thursday afternoon, Clifton paused for a few moments to remember and honor the 389 Clifton residents lost to Covid-19 over the past three years. As people drove or strolled up the path to the Senior Barn, they could hear the 389 small white flags fluttering in the breeze. The flags had been planted earlier that morning by city employees, with each flag representing a life of a Clifton resident lost during the pandemic. The ceremony took place at a small reflection garden, with freshly planted flowers in front of a rock with the following inscription on a plaque with the city logo: “In commemoration of those who lost their lives, all essential workers who persevered during the darkest days, and all Clifton residents who have stood together throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
The ceremony opened with the Pledge of Allegiance followed by a moment of silence and was attended by a crowd of Clifton city employees as well as concerned citizens, some of whom had lost family members to Covid. City Manager Dominick Villano said the Northeast was hard-hit by the pandemic, citing a statistic that for every 100,000 residents, 397 lives would be lost – with 389, we were within range. He said, “Today, we gather at the reflection garden to pay homage, we urge others to reflect on the happy times, and to pray for families and loved ones left behind.” Mayor Ray Grabowski spoke of the heroics of the Clifton Health Department as well as first responders and others who kept the community going. “In one day, the world just shut down. We stayed home, we couldn’t go out, our lives changed overnight.” He talked about the fear and uncertainty all around the world, not just in Clifton. “We can’t forget about anything, including how many lives were lost, and all the efforts put out by our health department. In the early days they kept us informed, later they made sure we were able to get vaccinated - setting up tents in the cold, never forgetting their mission.” He added we would not be where we are today without their hard work.
Health Officer John Biegel then spoke and thanked City officials, past and present, for backing the efforts of the health department, saying, “We had so many tough policy conversations and received so much support, I hope more than anything we keep this up. We may not be on the front lines, but we save lives through education and inspections and trying to be proactive.” He added that he can’t believe it’s been three years since the start of the global pandemic. Biegel said, “Some families will never go back to their past lives, we lost so many. Let’s move on but never forget. So many are still affected by loss, by long Covid and by not knowing what lies ahead. Long terms effects will be forever, so we’ll be hiring social workers and focusing on mental health.”
During the pandemic, the Health Department issued regular reports on prevention guidelines, as well as on the number of cases broken down by age and gender; they also reported on deaths directly attributable to the disease. As vaccinations became available, they scheduled clinics and relied on many Clifton volunteers for administrative support.
Hopefully, the families of those who lost their lives will come to the Covid Memorial Garden and take some comfort and solace that their families and loved ones will be forever commemorated and never forgotten.
Although the pandemic has been officially declared over, the virus is still around and affecting people. Common sense guidelines still apply, including staying home if sick, wearing a mask in enclosed areas such as mass transportation, and washing hands after going out.
Mayor Grabowski reminded us that the dark days of the pandemic are now behind us but must never be forgotten and we owe it to those lost, and their loved ones, to move ahead but never forget.