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Statehouse memorial for 12,000 Hoosiers marks 1 year of pandemic shutdown

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Tuesday marked one year since Gov. Eric Holcomb issued the statewide stay-at-home order.

People gathered at the Statehouse for a vigil to mourn all that’s been lost during the pandemic, as well as to call on state lawmakers.

Outside the Statehouse, a sea of American flags represents Hoosiers who have died from the coronavirus: loved ones, friends, family, neighbors.

“We weren’t allowed to go to her funeral. We weren’t allowed to say goodbye to her,” Marianne Schell, of Martinsville, said of a friend she lost.

Schell’s neighbor in her 90s died from COVID-19 last summer. Her neighbor’s name was one of many read as flowers were laid during the vigil.

“It means a lot. It’s almost like going to her funeral,” Schell said.

Event organizers said at least 100 people came to the Statehouse with the group Hoosier Action to share their stories.

“We have lost so much as a state in the past year. We have lost nearly 13,000 Hoosiers, and we have lost thousands more to deaths of despair. Who have turned to drugs, alcohol, suicide,” said Tracey Hutchings-Goetz, the Hoosier Action communications and policy director.

Faith leaders from across the state spoke poignantly as they reflected on all we have lost during the last year.

“We put the grief in God’s hands. We don’t let the grief become bigger than life,” Imam Michael Saahir, of the Nur-Allah Islamic Center of Indianapolis, said.

Rabbi Brett Krichiver, of the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation, said, “We are indeed in a moment of recollection and mourning.”

Since the pandemic began, Hoosier Action has talked with thousands of people about their needs, cares and experiences. Now, they’re calling on state lawmakers to make sure all Hoosiers can recover.

“We wanted to share our stories, mourn our losses and call on the Indiana General Assembly to take bold leadership so that we can reclaim a future where all of us can thrive and where we can recover from this really painful, really hard year,” Hutchings-Goetz said.

Back outside, 32-year Army veteran Ray Mejia has a hope for those who see the flags he helped carefully place.

“We will beat it, but we all have to do our part, each of us, individually until it’s done, Mejia said.