Website offers place to grieve COVID-19 victims

BOSTON — Red dots, real people, massive tragedy. Those are the essential elements conveyed in the website Created by a couple from South Carolina, the site seeks to chronicle the life and death of every victim of COVID-19 in the United States.

That task becomes more daunting every day.

Back when Dermot Jevens and Rebecca Heiss began the site in April, U.S. COVID-19 deaths had just passed the 10,000 mark. Six months later, another 200,000 Americans have died of the coronavirus.

“What we really need to do is remember that this has happened and what we really need to do is try to find a way to help us prevent this from ever happening again,” Jevens said. “This number represents real people. It represents moms, it represents dads, it represents sons, daughters, leaders, coworkers. And these people are the very fabric of our society.”

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And Jevens and Heiss are determined these victims not be forgotten.

“It just killed us seeing these people, their stories being lost,” Jevens said. “And it was from seeing that, that was born.”

The site offers families and loved ones a place to share their shock, frustration and pain.

“You don’t have to be an English major,” Jevens said. “We want it to be in your words.”

Death from COVID-19, especially early in the pandemic, was an often lonely experience, with family members separated from each other for fear of spreading the infection.

“We heard one story from one wife whose husband was extubated long enough for him to tell her that he loved her,” Jevens said. “And then he passed away.”

Jevens lost his own father last fall and can’t imagine what it would have been like if he couldn’t have been with him.

“I got to be there with him during that last week while he was in the hospital,” he said. “I just have a sincere level of empathy for the people who are missing out on that. Missing out on being able to say goodbye, missing out on being able to hold their hands. And that’s happening again and again and again.”

Although the site is about death, Jevens hopes it will provide lessons for the living.

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“Sometimes it takes nothing more than awareness,” he said. “Awareness that others have suffered pain maybe will make people sit long enough to just contemplate what they can do to prevent the same pain in their family.”

And perhaps that will translate into social distancing, wearing masks and continuing to observe common-sense public health rules, he added.

“If this site does nothing more than save one life then we will have felt accomplished in what we have done,” Jevens said.

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