'Not just a number': Yellow Heart Memorial honors Florida residents who died from COVID-19

Volunteers in Florida opened a Yellow Heart Memorial to remember the residents who have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

The temporary exhibit will be housed in the Crystal River Mall. Hundreds of yellow hearts will have the names of people who died from COVID-19.

Debra McCoskey-Reisert of the Yellow Heart Memorial Florida Chapter worked to make the memorial a reality as a way to honor her brother Bobby McCoskey who died from COVID-19 in 2020.

"My brother Bobby was extra special. He was intellectually disabled, so though he was 55, he was a big kid. Bobby was wonderful. He loved everybody. He lived in the moment," McCoskey-Reisert shared.

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The memorial comes as the United States marks another sobering milestone of 900,000 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic. Those who came to honor their loved ones say they want them to be more than numbers.

"I lost first my mother and then her sister my aunt in April 2020 within three weeks of each other," Kimberly Tougas said. "This here we’re showing people they’re not just numbers. They’re actual people with lives and families."

Pia Steely came to honor her brother, Pier. She said the memorial helps in her healing.

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"This has helped me tremendously, and I think it would help, and I encourage anybody who is going through anything like this to come out here as well and put a name of and a picture. I think it’s something that’s a tremendous healing inside," Steely said.

Organizers said this is the first statewide COVID-19 memorial in Florida.

"Our community has a space to grieve. We all can come place hearts and leave names," McCoskey-Reisert stated.

LINK: For more information on the Yellow Heart Memorial program.