PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Hundreds of Pennsylvanians have lost their lives to COVID-19 and they were remembered Friday in a striking memorial on Independence Mall. There are 850 seats that have been positioned on Independence Mall. It’s a striking visual but it’s just one-tenth of the lives lost due to COVID-19 in Pennsylvania.
The event began at noon and the chairs on Independence Mall remained empty to mark a portion of the void COVID-19 has left behind.
“I hope that people see these chairs and see the scale of loss that we have experienced as a state here in Pennsylvania,” said Chris Kocher, executive director for COVID Survivors for Change.
The 850 chairs mark the 8,500 lives lost in Pennsylvania to COVID-19 so far.
“It’s really powerful,” said Liz Feeney, who lost her father to the coronavirus.
One seat belongs to Feeney’s dad, Ray Dougherty, a lifelong Philadelphian and longtime postal worker.
“There is no last goodbye, there is no last I love you,” Feeney said. “It’s living with the fact that your loved one died alone.”
Doc, as he was known, was 70 when he died after contracting COVID-19. He passed away on July 4, making this location on Independence Mall all the more emotional.
Other families who have suffered loss at the hands of COVID-19 shared their stories.
The day’s audience existed largely through a live stream, an indication not only of who was not there but also the ways that communities can no longer mourn together in person.
Similar commemorations have taken place in other locations across the country.