The city of Long Beach will construct a memorial dedicated to the more than 900 Long Beach residents who have died from COVID-19 over the last year, Mayor Robert Garcia announced Wednesday.
“All of us know that we’ve had a tremendous year of loss. There has been no event or incident that has ever cost us more lives than the COVID-19 pandemic,” Garcia said. “There is nothing as important as building a memorial to remember and recognize all the people we have lost across our city.”
Garcia announced the memorial during his Building a Better Long Beach presentation, an annual update on development citywide. Former Long Beach health department Director Ron Arias will chair the committee tasked with engaging community leaders and artists to develop plans for the project, he added.
Garcia’s mother and stepfather died of COVID-19 within two weeks of each other last summer. Garcia said in an interview he views this project through the lens of a mourning resident and not just as mayor.
“We want people to be able to go and remember the event, the people we lost, and for the families that have been directly impacted to have a space where they can go and mourn,” Garcia said, noting his own desire for such a space.
The memorial should be solemn while also speaking to the perseverance and diversity of the city, Garcia said, adding that the committee needs to be open minded in terms of what type of memorial gets created, be it a singular piece or a combination that merges various mediums and monuments.
Additionally, frontline workers such as nurses and doctors should also be reflected in the memorial, Garcia said.
As for the location, it must be publicly accessible and would likely be outdoors somewhere “significant that speaks to the seriousness and importance of the memorial,” Garcia said. Of course, he added, the type of memorial would also inform where it could be located.
Many memorials include the names of people those who have died in wars and tragedies such as 9/11, and Garcia said it should certainly be considered for the Long Beach site. However, he said such consideration should be made thoughtfully and sensitively with relatives of the deceased having a seat at the table.
“People that were lost are more than just numbers or data,” Garcia said.
The memorial should not only honor the Long Beach residents who have died, Garcia said, noting that many residents may have lost loved ones outside of Long Beach and the memorial should be a space where they can also go to mourn and remember.
With a focus on community engagement, particularly with those who lost someone to COVID-19, Garcia said he hopes the committee can come up with multiple memorial options over the next six to 12 months.
“This is something we shouldn’t rush through,” Garcia said. “We need enough time to engage the community and develop something that’s really special.”
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