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Detroit holds memorial day for COVID-19 victims

City holds memorial drive on Belle Isle

A procession of vehicles on Belle Isle for Detroit Memorial Day on Aug. 31, 2020. Th day honored COVID-19 victims in the city.
A procession of vehicles on Belle Isle for Detroit Memorial Day on Aug. 31, 2020. Th day honored COVID-19 victims in the city. (WDIV)

DETROIT – The city of Detroit is holding a memorial day on Monday to honor more than 1,500 residents who died from COVID-19.

On Monday, “Detroit Memorial Day,” families are driving their cars in 15 consecutive funeral processions past nearly 900 billboard-sized photos of loved ones staked around Belle Isle. The photos represent a majority of the 1,500 Detroiters lost to the virus between through early August. Family members provided each of the images being displayed along the memorial drive route.

Portraits of COVID-19 victims line the street Aug. 31, 2020 on Belle Isle in Detroit.
Portraits of COVID-19 victims line the street Aug. 31, 2020 on Belle Isle in Detroit. (WDIV)

Duggan spoke at 8:15 a.m. at the foot of the bridge to Belle Isle. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also spoke briefly ahead of the procession.

At 8:45 a.m., Duggan called for the ringing of bells on the island and across the city. The first procession crossed the bridge while the bells rang. Detroiters across the region – families, businesses, churches, neighbors – were asked to ring bells for 15 minutes to honor our 1,500 victims and signal the beginning of the drive.

The public is asked to visit the island to see the photos on Tuesday and Wednesday to allow families to mourn on Monday.

Image represents the 1,500 fellow Detroiters lost to COVID-19.  Artist: Eric Millikin.
Image represents the 1,500 fellow Detroiters lost to COVID-19. Artist: Eric Millikin. (City of Detroit)

Several Detroit-area funeral homes are leading the processions. Two funeral homes, O.H. Pye, and Verheyden, volunteered to serve all day. The hearses will lead the processions north on Chene and east on Jefferson to Belle Isle and then around the island.

On the island, white-gloved volunteers from the Belle Isle Conservancy, which oversees programming on the island, will greet mourners with flowers as they pass. The drive will last from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Belle Isle will be closed to all public car, bike and pedestrian traffic for the day. At 4 p.m., after the final procession, all mourners and all Detroiters are asked to head home to watch The Ford Fireworks on WDIV Local 4. There will be no in-person viewing of the fireworks this year.

Detroit residents so far make up roughly 25% of Michigan’s 6,400 COVID-19 deaths.


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