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NEW YORK CITY — It was 16-year-old Hannah Elizabeth Ernst’s first time crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. But instead of her grandpa Cal by her side, there were over 200 strangers who had become new family — they were survivors of COVID-19, including long haulers, and like Ernst, family members of the pandemic’s victims.

The Aug. 7 march was organized by Ernst, Rosie Davis of Yellow Heart Memorial and COVID Survivors for Change. Ernst, of New Jersey, founded Faces of COVID Victims in August 2020 following her grandfather’s death after he contracted COVID-19.

Davis created Yellow Heart Memorial after her mother Mary Castro, a 75-year-old retired nurse, died at her Dallas nursing home on May 17 due to the illness — just a week after Ernst’s grandfather, Cal Schoenfeld, passed away at the age of 83.

“I had lost my mom two months into the pandemic,” Davis told Patch. “We have embraced other people by memorializing their loved ones. We are a safe space, a place of healing.”https://www.messenger-inquirer.com/classifieds/job/architecture/covington-2-vs-usman-live-stream-reddit-free/ad_8a574112-3eb7-11ec-9cc1-1f3c6bf9477a.html
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“I’ve never had anyone that I was as close to as my grandpa pass,” Ernst told Patch. “And then losing him, where we can’t be with him, we couldn’t see him aside from FaceTiming him while he was on a ventilator — I would never wish upon anybody. It was awful.”

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While dozens of other cities held their own marches, many traveled to New York City for the flagship event, some from as far away as California. Flying in from Texas, Davis linked up with Ernst and together they walked across the Brooklyn Bridge.

“We called for that to be a national COVID awareness day,” said Davis. “It felt amazing to be with that many survivors all on one bridge that day.”

Faces of Covid Victims started with a single drawing. Ernst had been sitting on the couch one day when she decided to draw her grandfather. Ernst’s mother shared the memorial drawing on a COVID-19 support group.

“People just started [saying], ‘I would love for my loved one to be drawn the same way,'” Ernst said. “Being able to memorialize my grandpa, who was an artist himself, and do the same for other people has just been astronomically helpful.”

Ernst said she’s made about 2,500 memorials at this point.

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