Queens mourners march across Brooklyn Bridge to honor those lost during COVID-19 pandemic

COVID Survivors for Change
Hundreds march across Brooklyn Bridge to remember those lost in the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo courtesy of COVID Survivors for Change)

A Sunnyside man led more than a hundred Queens mourners across the Brooklyn Bridge Saturday, Aug. 6, for the second annual ‘COVID March to Remember‘ as part of a national day of action with dozens of marches across the country.

Many carried photos of their loved ones lost during the COVID-19 pandemic as they took more than a million collective steps to honor every person killed and to raise awareness and issue an urgent call to action.

“We are approaching pivotal elections this November,” said Sunnyside resident Chris Kocher, executive director of COVID Survivors for Change. “This march helps COVID survivor activists bolster each other as we head into a make-or-break moment for American public health. Will we move together with common sense policies, or will we allow division, inaction, and distraction to enable more death? Survivors understand that their voices will be crucial in deciding this.”

Advocates note that the midterm election will hold significant sway in determining the future of COVID care for Long Haulers, support for children orphaned by COVID, and U.S. pandemic prevention — issues that touch the lives of every American. Additionally, the midterms will decide whether millions of Americans gain healthcare coverage under expanded Medicaid, critical to preventing and treating COVID-19 and other illnesses. Advocates say a few critical Senate races could decide whether desperately needed COVID funding that is currently stalled in Congress can advance and save lives.

Hannah Ernst, the artist behind the Queens COVID Remembrance Day project, created thousands of portraits of those lost to the pandemic that was shown in Forest Park, St. John’s University and the Queens Public Library branch in Elmhurst in the past year. Ernst began drawing portraits of COVID-19 victims after the loss of her grandfather, Calvin “Cal” Schoenfeld, in May 2020, and she marched across the Brooklyn Bridge in memory of him.

“Despite losing my grandfather to COVID, his impact lives on,” Ernst said. “I would never have imagined that our plans to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge would create a space for others to join in solidarity, to remember a million lives lost to COVID here in the United States, and to support one another as family members who carry the memory of those lost in our hearts. This march to remember is more than a demonstration: it’s a call to lawmakers and all Americans to hear us and recognize COVID isn’t over.”

Corona resident Shyvonne Noboa, a New York state team leader with COVID Survivors for Change, serves as the division director for senior services at Sunnyside Community Services, where her team did everything they could to stay connected with seniors after the center closed due to the pandemic, providing home care and access to food, as well as making over 28,000 wellness calls throughout the pandemic. She marched in honor of her grandfather Tobias, an immigrant from Ecuador who drove a cab for 45 years before he was lost during the early days of the pandemic in May 2020.

“When my abuelito died, I felt as though my world was caving in around me,” Noboa said. “I couldn’t take the time to grieve his death, because so many members of my family were sick with COVID-19 and in need of care. Today, I’m walking for my grandfather, and for the millions of families and survivors still struggling. Every person taken too soon by COVID matters, and we’ll keep fighting for them.”