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Miami Gardens 'Unmasks' — And Honors — The Faces Of COVID-19

 Miami Gardens community members gather on Saturday to honor and mourn those lost to COVID-19.
Miami Gardens community members gather on Saturday to honor and mourn those lost to COVID-19.

Miami Gardens community members gathered over the weekend for a new Memorial Day tradition — remembering and honoring the names and faces of those lost to COVID-19.

As many returned to crowded beaches and congested highways over the Memorial Day weekend in South Florida — despite the continuing COVID-19 pandemic — Miami Gardens officials and residents gathered under the city’s iconic Sunshine Arches Saturday to honor members of the community who lost their lives to the virus. The service was guided by music, prayer and kinship.

Councilwoman Shannon “Lady” Ighodaro worked in collaboration with community members to hold a memorial service for the loved ones of residents that succumbed to the most tragic outcome of this pandemic.

The councilwoman invited members of the community to submit photographs of their lost loved ones to be displayed at the event.

“We wanted to proudly show the faces behind the numbers,” Ighodaro said.

The gathering underscored a harrowing yet often overlooked reality of the pandemic: the near inability for families to properly mourn the loss of their loved ones due to various restrictions, expounding an already tragic situation.

Laverne Pinkney’s mother, Mardenia Williams, lost her battle with COVID-19 within just one week of her diagnosis last June. Williams had been living in an assisted living facility so the family was unable to communicate with the matriarch on any level due to the rapid escalation of her condition.

Coronavirus has torn through entire families and in most cases, deprived those grieving of the opportunity to respectfully mourn their loss. Officials say the city of Miami Gardens is keen on correcting that.

Pinkney said that event was so meaningful to her and Miami Gardens residents because it is a gesture of community and a display of human decency.

“The people in charge see that you are not just somebody paying taxes. You are a human being and they will remember you," she said.

Ighodaro plans to put forth a resolution to hold the service annually during Memorial Day Weekend.

“As long as there is a city of Miami Gardens,” she said, “we will remember lives of those lost in this city to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
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Shianne Salazar