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To Shine A Light

Abby Zimet

 by Common Dreams

A return to decency. AP Photo

Already, a sea change. On the eve of their inauguration, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris held a searing memorial for the now 400,128 Americans killed, many needlessly, by COVID, the first public acknowledgment of the incalculable loss inflicted by an incompetent, post-truth deadbeat missing the decency gene who's left behind "a very wide swath of American carnage" - physical, mental, spiritual - from his reign as the worst president ever, and "the most horrible human being who has ever sat in the Oval Office." Given the massive scale of deaths, the dire prediction they could reach 500,000 by next month with ever-accelerating speed, the relentless specter of decimated communities of color burying loved ones in parking lots, and a collective trauma still very much being processed, the event at the Lincoln Memorial's reflecting pool felt wrenching to many Americans who didn't realize how deeply they'd needed it. Proclaiming, "Not forgotten. Not just a number," the #COVIDMemorial was dubbed "a national moment of unity" and "a chance to reflect and honor those no longer with us,” with organizers urging people to light candles at home in solidarity. "For many months, we have grieved by ourselves," said Harris at the brief ceremony. "Tonight we grieve and begin healing together." Biden also spoke of healing, referencing his own family tragedies to insist that, "To heal, we must remember"; he also argued we must "shine a light in the darkness" for those we've lost.

He and the handful of others then turned to watch 400 lights - each almost unimaginably representing 1,000 people who've died - illuminated along and reflected in the pool. The powerful sight was accompanied by the ringing of church bells; afterwards, gospel singer Yolanda Adams sang Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," and Michigan COVID nurse Lori Marie Key sang a chilling "Amazing Grace." Biden: "If there are any angels in heaven, they're all nurses." The gentle beauty and diamond-clear, desperately missed empathy of the event felt to many like a gift of water after being lost in the desert and not realizing how thirsty they were. In an hour, several noted, Biden and Harris, not yet sworn in, brought more honor, decency and integrity to the country than all four years of the monsters before them. "Thank God the grown-ups are back," said one. "About damn time." Online, tearful, grieving relatives chimed in with heartrending memories of those who "didn't die right." They sent love to moms, dads, uncles who should have been there with them; they celebrated "the heart of New York beats on tonight" with a lit-up Empire State building;they recounted, "My dad put up one hell of a fight against COVID - I know he'll see the lights shining down here"; they reassured those gone with, "They remembered you, Dad." "We have lost so much. Hurt so much. Feared so much," wrote Lauren Holly. "This (memorial) makes me hope so much." "We are one," wrote another on the succor and spirit of the evening. "Change is coming."

Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, she moved to the Maine woods in the early 70s, where she spent a dozen years building a house, hauling water and writing before moving to Portland. Having come of political age during the Vietnam War, she has long been involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email:

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