Mayor Steven Fulop, Jersey City Council members, and members of the Jersey City community participated in a National Moment of Unity and Remembrance to remember the many lives lost to COVID-19 and reflect on the unprecedented challenges that lie ahead.
In Jersey City, 613 residents have died due to COVID-19 as of Jan. 19. Since the pandemic’s start in March, Jersey City has had 17,505 residents test positive for COVID-19 as of Jan. 21. The seven-day average equals 145 new positive cases.
But, as local organizer Sabila Khan pointed out, this data represents more than mere stats; each number represents a loved one died.
A moment of reflection
Local group COVID-19 Loss Support for Family & Friends, founded by Khan, organized the event with the city outside city hall.
Participants bundled in winter coats and hats in the freezing temperatures holding photos of family members and friends who succumbed to the virus.
“Shafqat Khan is not a statistic,” Khan said. “He was many many wonderful things. He was a loving father of three, a doting grandfather of seven, and the devoted husband to my mother for what would have been 50 years last October.”
She explained that her father who passed away in April from COVID-19 was an activist conducting voter registration drives in the local Pakistani-American community.
She and others who lost their loved ones to the virus spoke about their inability to appropriately say good-bye as restrictions prevented families from visiting their loved ones in hospitals or having traditional funerals and services.
“My father was the truest example of a solid, reliable, and good human being, who showed up for his family and his community every single day,” Kahn said. ”Unfortunately, at the end, I couldn’t show up for him. Not when he spent three days in a war zone of an E.R. only three blocks away from us. Not when his heart stopped four days after that on April 14. I couldn’t even show up for him when he was buried. Instead in what was perhaps the most surreal and heartbreaking experience of my life I watched my father’s burial live-streamed on Facetime. No one’s father deserves this.”
She said no family deserves the lack of closure or the feelings of guilt and anxiety and the burden of COVID grief.
She said through navigating her own grief and trauma she formed the group four days after her father died. The Facebook group now has more than 6,000 members.
Vernon Richardson, chief of staff for the late Councilman Michael Yun who died last spring of COVID-19, said Yun, too, is not a statistic.
“My time with him is probably the proudest time I’ve had in my entire life,” Richardson said. “Every day people come through the door, and we would help solve their problems. He is someone I miss dearly.”
Stefania Miklas-McCall remembers her father Stanly Miklas, a U.S. Marine, Vietnam War veteran, and a Purple Heart awardee who worked at the Veteran Administration Hospital in New York City.
“COVID took the strongest man I have ever known, within a week’s time,” she said. “We weren’t able to have a wake, a proper funeral, or even a burial where we could gather, embrace, and pray together instead of only just waving at the cemetery gates … Our chance to say good-bye one last time was stolen.”
Fulop reflected on the loss of his grandmother Elisabeth Fulop who died in May at 95 after contracting COVID-19, as well as residents, neighbors, and friends who have died.
“We’ve struggled here in Jersey City like the rest of the country,” Fulop said. “We’ve had 600 lives die pass here: loved ones, neighborhood activists, council members, community leaders, organizers. You’d be hard pressed to find one person in Jersey City who doesn’t know first hand somebody who’s passed away.”
But he said that with the new President more resources will come.
“Hopefully the future is a little brighter than what the past year has brought us,” said Fulop.
To watch the full event go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KJM25RsRj0