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Opinion | 100,000: The Names Behind a Grim Toll

To the Editor:

Re “U.S. Deaths Near 100,000, an Incalculable Loss” (front page, May 24):

Thank you so much for this heartbreaking, breathtaking memorial. As a minister, I tell my congregants that memorializing someone is about much more than remembering the outlines of a person’s life. It’s about making what seems unreal — death of our loved one — more real, more concrete. It’s about building a container for our grief. It’s about retelling the story of how the person who died has shaped us.

You’ve done all of those things.

When many people die at once, a mass memorial plays an even more important societal role: to shape the story we will tell about what happened. This story will then shape our future. In humanizing our beloved dead, you have reminded us that each person is precious, not something to be sacrificed for a growth economy. May that reminder spur us to action: If future epidemics are met with a just society and competent leadership, more of us will survive.

(Rev.) Elizabeth Bukey
Roslindale, Mass.

To the Editor:

Thank you, New York Times, for acknowledging lives we have lost to Covid-19, and for making overwhelming numerical data so personal. Without a single photograph, you illustrated so powerfully the breadth and depth of the losses endured by so many Americans. May each of the grieving families know that they are not alone. We mourn with them.

Margaret O’Hara
West Orange, N.J.

To the Editor:

Your graphic depiction of the staggering loss of nearly 100,000 Americans to Covid-19 (so far) is moving beyond words. But I fear that the common, if unconscious, tendency to focus on the death toll only in our country (when more than 340,000 people have died worldwide) suggests that we think the loss of an American life is more of a tragedy than the loss of a life elsewhere. It has never been more important to rise above the constraints of nationalism and tribalism in order to affirm our common humanity.

Alfie Kohn
Belmont, Mass.

To the Editor:

The front page of Sunday’s New York Times is a meaningful tribute to all who have lost their lives to this unseen enemy. May their deaths inspire all of us to do better in protecting ourselves and others. The common good is so at risk as things “open up.” Thank you for remembering them and reminding us.

Sandy Kerlin
Covington, Ky.

To the Editor:

On this Memorial Day weekend, I realized that I had to read every single one of the names of the coronavirus victims, out of respect for them and to sharpen my sense of grief increasingly dulled by unthinkable numbers. But about halfway through, I found myself wondering: Might this particular person whose name I am reading right now still be alive were it not for the nonfeasance, misfeasance and malfeasance in the Oval Office? Of course, the answer each time was “quite possibly.”

Eliot Daley
Princeton, N.J.

To the Editor:

The front page of Sunday’s New York Times breached my personal dam — life in a comfortable home in a leafy suburb — which protected me from the true heartbreaking significance of all the Covid-19 facts I consume every day. “An incalculable loss,” indeed.

Marian Freedman
Watchung, N.J.

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