One year after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, Aggies and Brazos County locals gathered in somber silence with candles lit on Thursday evening to honor the losses COVID-19 has caused and continues to cause.
Organized by Texas A&M students and held on campus, the vigil brought members of the community together to mourn the lives lost to COVID-19. Organizers live-streamed the event on social media as well to include those unable to attend and bring awareness to the losses experienced at the hands of the pandemic.
Visualization major Frey Miller said in looking at Brazos County Health District statistics he has noticed many COVID-19 cases are from the 20- to 29-year-old demographic.
“We recognized that as a college community we have a lot of influence over the health of our overall community, and as Aggies we need to make sure we are taking care of all of the people living in Bryan-College Station and taking care of the community as a whole,” Miller said. “We wanted to make sure that we were honoring the victims not only in College Station and at Texas A&M but also in the larger Bryan and College Station area.”
Attendees of the vigil stood for a 221 second moment of silence to cherish the 221 lives lost to COVID-19 in Brazos County over the past year. Following the moment of silence, approximately 40 students and community members took a route similar to A&M’s annual Elephant Walk and walked quietly across campus in honor of the dead.
International studies junior and organizer Alexia Hernandez said she and her peers wanted the community to be able to share their feelings and support one another in a way they haven’t been able to up to this point.
“We don’t get to hear the stories, we don’t get to hear the personal trauma and effects on people’s lives that COVID[-19] has, we just get to hear about the politics and the numbers,” Hernandez said. “I feel like this event brings stories and real life perspectives at A&M.”
The event provided gatherers the opportunity to share personal stories of their COVID-19 experiences as well as a time to speak about family members who have been killed by the virus.
Political science sophomore Barret Grandstaff attended the event to honor a loved one who had passed and to support others who have experienced loss at the hands of COVID-19. Grandstaff said she was moved by those who shared their stories at the event and it allowed her time to grieve.
“I really came to be in memorial for the people that we have lost during the pandemic due to COVID[-19], people we couldn’t see who we lost due to COVID[-19] and really to just be with the community and we’re grieving as one,” Grandstaff said.
Wildlife and fisheries sophomore and organizer Amanda Harvey said as a community, people in Bryan-College Station need to look at their actions and what they can do in order to help prevent further loss of life in Aggieland.
“I think it was necessary that we held this event because we are continuing to host events like Breakaway, Aggie football games and ignoring [the pandemic] because the percentage [of death] is only one percent,” Harvey said. “I think we need to focus on the fact that one percent can fill Kyle Field five times, and it’s just growing and counting.”
Sociology Ph.D. student Gemini Creason-Parker began studying at A&M in August and shared that she travels back to her home state of Oklahoma to work as a nurse with the COVID-19 patients. Creason-Parker urged attendees to continue wearing masks to combat the virus as health care workers continue working around the clock.
“I keep hearing people say that only one percent of people have died and words cannot explain how angry and heartbreaking that is for me to hear,” Creason-Parker said. “That one percent had families that I had to tell the end was near, that one percent had faces that I had to watch drift away, that one percent had to deal with invasive procedures before passing on and I had to be there for that.”
The organizers said they had a larger turnout than expected and are very pleased with the stories that were shared and the people who came out to spend time mourning what has been lost to the pandemic.
“We underestimated how many people on this campus were affected by COVID[-19],” Hernandez said. “I think it is very evident from tonight that many people have had their lives shook or torn apart by this virus by losing loved ones. I am definitely very grateful that everyone took the time to come out here tonight, it is definitely a very emotionally laborious event to attend. I’m really happy that I can find solidarity in people’s shared experience with the unfortunate events that COVID[-19] has brought us.”