Santa Monica joins 100 other cities in effort to establish national holiday honoring those lost to COVID

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (KABC) -- After a full year since the first known COVID-19 death in the United States, people all over America on Monday remembered the friends, neighbors and family members lost to the disease, in what's become a national day of mourning.

Santa Monica is joining more than 100 other cities to proclaim the first Monday of March as COVID Memorial Day in an effort to make it a national holiday.

Some took the time to remember those individuals lost at the city's Rose River Memorial, which features handmade felt roses from all over Southern California dedicated to those that have died from the virus.

Those who showed up said memorials like these make them feel recognized and not alone in their grief.

One woman who lost four family members, including her husband, to the virus says COVID victims and their families have been marginalized for too long and their stories of loss ignored.

"I felt like we were treated like outcasts. I knew people that kept telling me it was a hoax and it was just like the flu. I always felt so frustrated because I wanted to get my story out and there was nowhere to go," said Lucy Casarez.

Carolyn Freyer-Jones, who lost her father to the coronavirus, said she wants a day that her family can honor their loved one.

"I have a 13-year-old daughter, so when she's in her 50s and she thinks about her grandpa losing his life to COVID, that there's a day that she can say it mattered," she said.

The memorial at the Building Bridges Art Exchange will be available through March 25. Those interested in contributing to the installation can receive a free rose-making kit or make an appointment to visit in person.
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