At 5pm on Saturday 5th September 2020, 6 months on from when the first reported death from Covid19 was reported, a remembrance service was held in London at Newington Green Unitarian Church followed by a Candle light vigil in Trafalgar Square at 8 p.m. Read here about the day and the keynote speech delivered by Salmaan Nasser, Chief Vision Officer of Our Heroes CIC who is leading the campaign to create The Forest of Memories through the Covid19 Memorial Forest Fund.
The Covid Memorial Day event was organised by Stefan Simanowitz of the Covid Memorial Day movement in coalition with Covid19 Memorial Forest Fund, @HelpThemHelpUs_ and @HearOurElders. It was attended by bereaved families and individuals who had lost someone to Covid19, journalists musicians, actors and actresses. and others who wished to show support for the bereaved families. Salmaan Nasser and Robert Streeter on behalf of Our Heroes CIC and The Forest of Memories team.
The order of service started at 17.30 with Stefan introducing the service. Salmaan Nasser then delivered the keynote speech, which is transcribed below. Andy Pakula, a Unitarian Minister, lead the service that was designed to provide the time and space to reflect on the 65,000 excess deaths in the UK this summer because of Covid-19 as well as the impacts on millions of people who have been impacted by the virus, the lock-down measures, and the resulting economic impacts. The service was about personal reflection, and to speak about loss, grief, and closure for the bereavements suffered by our nation during this historic period.
There were poems read out Simona Hughes and songs sung by Ilana Lorraine and Paul and Ruby. After the final message and thank you by Stefan and Andy, the congregation made their way to Trafalgar Square for the candlelit vigil. Please see our gallery below for photos from the day.
Covid Memorial Day Keynote speech
A keynote speech was delivered at the Covid Memorial Day ceremony by Salmaan Nasser. We’ve recreated the text of this below.
Firstly I would like to thank the organisers for inviting our organisation to take part in today’s healing process. Thank you to all the guests that have attended today and id like to say my thoughts, condolences and prayers are with you. Thank you to all the wonderful people who have just shared their stories, I feel touched, honoured and humbled to have been able to share this stage with you today.
During the pandemic there have been huge numbers of deaths, families affected, businesses shut down, jobs lost, lives have put on hold, a lockdown our freedoms. Things seem to be getting better now but as a society, as a community, we have not had the opportunity to think about what has just happened.
To contemplate on those we have lost. We haven’t been able to take a moment of reflection, as a nation. This is why events like this, help us come together to collectively mourn and remember the loved ones lost.
I too was one of the people affected by the job losses. I lost my job. Sitting at home with my family, I went into lockdown. One of the things that struck me were the numbers, coming out of the media. The numbers kept going up.
I wanted to find a way to remember who these people were. What were their names? What were their dreams? What were their aspirations? Who were their family members that now mourned their loss? They are now gone. I needed to know their stories, and I needed their stories to be told.
More than just a number. – that was what was on my mind.
A group of friends, old colleagues and family came together to follow this vision, at a time of lockdown. One of us had the amazing idea to plant a tree for every loved one lost. Since then we have created the concept of the forest of memories. From the concept, a not-for-profit organisation was created, with our first project being the Covid19 Memorial Forest, our Forest of Memories.
In our vision, our dream, we are pledging to plant a tree for every soul lost to covid19. To pay tribute to all of those individuals that did deeds big or small -so that they remembered, celebrated and cherished.
When our forest is planted, we will create beautiful groves of reflection as well as supplementing the natural habitat and providing educational facilities for children.
Each tree will represent a person and their life will live on with this tree. Using augmented reality, a visit to our Forest of Memories will allow you to see, hear and learn about all those loved ones lost. And all those who helped us in our time of need.
We believe that planting trees in memory of a loved one is very befitting. A tree is a symbol of hope, lasting love and regeneration. We’ve been through a traumatic time as a nation, let us now heal collectively. Heal our wounds and the wounds of the planet.
By coming together as a community, for the community. Irrespective of what the politicians may say, we can empower ourselves and help each other. Lockdown has shown us the capacity of the human spirit for compassion, we have seen the nation come together, we wish to express this in a Forest of Memories.
Peace to you all.
Salmaan Nasser, Chief Vision Officer, Covid19 Memorial Forest Fund