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As nation passes 700,000 COVID-19 deaths, local church remembers lives lost
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As nation passes 700,000 COVID-19 deaths, local church remembers lives lost

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Members of Grace Episcopal Church in Nelson County gathered for the fourth time to remember all the American lives that have been lost because of COVID-19.

This time, they were remembering the 700,000 American deaths to the coronavirus that have occurred since the outbreak of the pandemic.

The church has had remembrance ceremonies for every 100,000 deaths since the United States passed the 400,000 death mark in January.

The Oct. 7 ceremony featured hymns by the church members, including Amazing Grace, as well as poetry and Bible readings.

Sharon Ponton, who has had a hand in leading the four ceremonies in Massie’s Mill, reflected on how the country got to this point, and how it continues to tear the nation apart.

“I’m just really sad that something that we should come together about, and protect each other has not come to fruition,” she said.

“I hope that people recognize not only those who have passed away, but will remind people that we are a society and what each of us choose to do affects others.”

Nelson County has had 1,274 cases of COVID-19 and 16 deaths from the virus as of Oct. 11, according to the Virginia Department of Health, while Amherst County recorded 4,178 cases and 53 deaths. Amherst County Public Schools on Oct. 8 in collaboration with Blue Ridge Medical Services offered Pfizer booster shots to any division employees and identified family members who wished to receive them, said Assistant Superintendent William Wells.

For the memorial marking 700,000 deaths, Grace Episcopal laid out seven paths in the field by the church, each signifying 100,000 deaths. They placed shoes that were donated to the church on the white paths, all pointing towards the memorial garden on the property.

In the middle of the seven paths is a circle with 16 pairs of shoes, representing each death that Nelson County has had because of COVID-19.

The empty shoes are a sobering sign of the lives that have been lost. And they go to show that every corner of the country has felt the impact of this pandemic.

“They have been our elders, our parents, our children, our friends. They were grandmothers, grandfathers, fathers, mothers, uncles and aunts, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews, sons and daughters, they loved their families, who loved them,” Ponton said.

“They were a part of our collective humanity. They were our countrymen, they were Americans just like us.”

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