State memorial created to honor more than 5K Kentuckians lost to COVID-19

Published: Mar. 15, 2021 at 9:46 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Outside the Kentucky Capitol, 5,005 American flags blow in the wind. Each one signifies a Kentuckian whose life was cut short from COVID-19.

“That’s 5,000 families that have lost somebody that means something to them,” Sierra O’Brien said.

O’Brien’s father Aron Jordan died almost a year ago from COVID. He was the first death reported in Boyd County.

“This whole year has felt like it flew by, but then again it feels like it’s been the longest year of our lives, and now we’re trying to figure out what our new normal is,” O’Brien said.

A normal that will never be the same for O’Brien and her family, or the thousands of others still grieving a loved one. Though it won’t bring them back, Gov. Andy Beshear is making sure the lives that were lost are not forgotten.

“This monument will stand in honor of all the Kentuckians we lost and commemorate the sacrifices that every Kentuckian made during this dark and difficult period,” Gov. Beshear said.

For O’Brien and her family, it means having a place to grieve and remember their father.

“Every single one of those names have a story behind them. To be able to look at it and realize that many people are out here trying to live a new normal without those people. Just to be able to have a visual of it... it makes it more real,” O’Brien said.

The grim milestone Monday came the same day of a more victorious one. More than one million Kentuckians have gotten their first shot of the vaccine. It’s a major step toward saving lives so that fewer flags have to be put out, and fewer families live with the grief O’Brien’s does.

“He just beats us all to heaven a little quicker. I just hang on to that. John 3:16. I’m going to see him again. He’s just there waiting on all of us,” O’Brien said.

Donations are being collected to fund the memorial project. What money is left will go to families to help cover some of the cost from funeral expenses. You can find the link to donate here on the Team Kentucky COVID-19 Memorial Fund website.

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