A COVID Memorial Shared Across the Country

With 40 tolls of the Duke Chapel carillon bells, Duke University joined a national memorial Tuesday evening for the nearly 400,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19.

As part of his inauguration ceremonies, President Joe Biden asked towns and cities across the country to ring bells and illuminate buildings at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday for the memorial. Biden appeared at the Lincoln Memorial for the ceremony there.

At Duke, the carillon bells tolled once for every 10,000 COVID deaths.  On Sunday, university staff recorded the lighting of 400 luminarias in the Memorial Garden adjacent to the chapel to run as part of the ceremony. (See the full ceremony below)

There also was music, including beloved songs, including “Amazing Grace” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

The leadership at Duke and Duke Chapel said they were honored to be part of the national ceremony. Rev. Luke Powery, dean of Duke Chapel, noted that the use of memorial bells and lights “helps us to remember that those who have died are our fellow brothers and sisters.”

“It calls us to remember our own mortality,” Powery said. “This is a time for introspection and to consider who is important in our lives and what is important in our lives.”

The ringing of bells also allowed people all over the country to mourn together, said Zebulon Highben, director of chapel music. “We can mourn and at the same time rejoice that we are part of a larger community, and see the end of this pandemic and the hope on the other side.”