Mar. 2—NEWBURYPORT — Church bells across the city rang 33 times at noon Monday to honor the 33 residents lost to COVID-19 and those grieving lost loved ones over the last year.
Roughly an hour later, more than 60 officials, clergy members, residents and others took part in a short videoconference service to honor the dead and to comfort the living. Among those participating were the Rev. Tim Harrison of Immaculate Conception Church, Mayor Donna Holaday, and Bresnahan Elementary School third-graders in Joan Sheehan's class.
As of Sunday, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 15,796 Massachusetts residents and more than 513,000 people across the country since the first cases were diagnosed in early 2020.
Holaday, in an email to The Daily News, said the pandemic has affected everyone in different ways.
"But the loss of life has been particularly difficult for families and friends; not being present with a loved one who was hospitalized or the prohibition of holding funerals or celebrations that are so helpful when dealing with loss and grief," Holaday said.
"We have acknowledged the numbers of those we have lost but I felt it was important to bring our community together with our interfaith leaders and students to honor those who have passed and maybe provide a little solace for their families and friends," she added. "I am also so appreciative of our churches that were able to toll their bells for the 33 victims today."
Holaday began the memorial by reading the city's proclamation summarizing COVID-19 Victims and Survivors' Memorial Day.
In the proclamation, she highlighted the work of essential workers who "stepped up to provide critical services to help protect our communities and save lives, risking their own health and safety."
City clergy then took turns offering prayers and words of comfort. The 35-minute ceremony also included poetry readings by Newburyport students from different schools as well as a violin performance by eighth-grader Callum Johnson.
Across the river in Amesbury, church bells at Holy Family Parish, Main Street Congregational Church and St. James Episcopal Church rang 45 times in honor of the 45 Amesbury residents who died during the same time period.
Amesbury Mayor Kassandra Gove released a similar proclamation and mentioned the "disproportionate impact on low-income communities and communities of color, exacerbating inequities already prevalent in our systems that we must address as a nation."
Flags in both cities were flown at half staff.