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Union Station Memorial Remembers The People — And The Way Of Life — Lost To COVID-19 In Kansas City

Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Union Station President and CEO George Guastello leads a moment of silence during the Core 4 governments' remembrance of the start of the pandemic protocols during a ceremony at Union Station on Tuesday afternoon.

More than 2,000 people in the Kansas City area died from COVID-19. Area leaders gathered to mark one year since they announced restrictions that would upend life across the metro.

A new installation at Union Station allows people to pay tribute to those who lost their lives to COVID-19 as the metro marks one year since the beginning of the pandemic.

Leaders from the group of four Kansas City-area jurisdictions gathered at the station Tuesday to unveil a “Floral Wall of Remembrance” designed by Studio Dan Meiners.

March 16, 2021, marks one year since Kansas City and Jackson County in Missouri and Johnson and Wyandotte counties in Kansas united to announce the area’s first restrictions on non-essential activities. In less than a week, stay-at-home orders were announced.

“It was heartbreaking. It's hard to take food off somebody’s table, but it's harder to see people die when you know you could’ve done more. And that's why we made the choices we did,” Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas said.

Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr., said despite the protections leaders put in place, too many lives were lost. According to the Mid-America Regional Council, 2,291 died from COVID-19 in the metropolitan area.

“We had to stay home, we had to socially distance, and we had to wear masks. Many of us got sick with COVID and survived. Unfortunately, many more did not. We lost hundreds of lives far too soon,” said White.

Kansas City, Kansas, Mayor David Alvey reflected on March 11, 2020, when he received news that a Wyandotte County resident was the first in the state to die from the virus.

He said he remembered the reluctance that the leaders felt when they enacted the pandemic’s first restrictions, as well as their determination to protect their residents.

“I recall as well the real hope that we all experienced and shared, that if we simply followed the science, if we simply mustered the political will to do what was right for our citizens, that we could prevent loss of life and health, and restore a sense of regularity,” Alvey said.

Alvey also warned that the fight against the virus was far from over.

Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Jackson County Executive Frank White pins a note to the 'Core 4' governments' remembrance wall Tuesday afternoon following a ceremony at Union Station to remember the year of pandemic protocols.

Johnson County Commissioner Ed Eilert said the group is now focused on getting their communities vaccinated.

“I think we are on a different trajectory than we were a year ago. The vaccines are available and become more available every week that we go on. Every county, every jurisdiction in the metropolitan area is actively involved in providing those vaccines,” said Eilert.

Eilert, Alvey, White and Lucas all left notes paying tribute to the sacrifices made during the pandemic on the floral wall.

The public is now invited to leave their own notes on the installation for the next two weeks. People can honor those who lost their lives, played an important role against the fight, or their own thoughts or memories during the pandemic.

At the end of the two weeks, the Kansas City Public Library will archive the notes for historic purposes.

More than ever, education lies at the intersection of equity, housing, funding, and other diverse issues facing Kansas City’s students, families and teachers. As KCUR’s education reporter, I’ll break down the policies driving these issues in schools and report what’s happening in our region's classrooms. You can reach me at jodifortino@kcur.org.
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