DETROIT – Belle Isle was transformed into a somber memorial honoring the lives of Detroit residents lost to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Only the families and friends of COVID-19 victims were allowed on Belle Isle on Monday, they were allowed to give their loved ones a final goodbye.
There were around 1,500 pictures lining the street around the island. The memorials are meant to give people space to stop and honor the people they’ve lost. There were 15 funeral processions held on Monday.
“It makes you feel like you’re not alone, because you see all the pictures out here,” Tionna Barksdale said.
Barksdale lost her sister, Nikki, to COVID-19 in March.
“It’s like a bittersweet situation when you’re driving through because it’s sweet that it was a suggestion, that it was done,” Barksdale said. “But then it was bitter because it’s like you have to see so many faces all at once.”
Detroit is the first city in the country to memorialize the victims of COVID-19.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer spoke about one of Detroit’s most heartbreaking losses.
“One of the youngest, the youngest in Michigan, Skyler Herbert, had a lifetime ahead of her. And two parents who were dedicated public servants,” Whitmer said.
Cynthia Dowtin lost her sister and nephew to COVID-19.
“I took my sister to the hospital and she was talking fine, like me and you, and all of a sudden they put her on that vent,” Dowtin said. “We didn’t even get a chance to tell them we love them, seems like they died by themselves.”
Despite not having proper funerals, the memorial, is a way for Detroit families to say goodbye -- together.