ONE YEAR LATER … Local Racial & Social Equity Tillamook Group Organizes Memorial to COVID-19

By Don Backman, Photos by Don Backman
A field of flags west of 101 at Hoquarten slough memorialized COVID 19’s impact on Tillamook County and Oregon.

On Saturday, March 13, 2021, Racial and Social Equity, Tillamook, held a memorial to honor and remember the vicitms of COVID 19 in Oregon and Tillamook. It was located at Sue H. Elmore park in Tillamook.

The group planted 239 small flags across the grassy area of the park, one flag for every ten of the 2,391 Oregonians who had passed away as of that day due to COVID-19. Two chairs sat in the center, representing the two empty chairs left in our communities after the passing of two Tillamook County residents. The field of white flags, evenly spaced out, were accented by a heart made of red flags. The stars and stripes flew prominently to signify that was a memorial for all Americans.

Samantha Goodwin, who organized the memorial, explained that she drew inspiration from the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC. “Seeing all the names listed was a very powerful visual presentation,” she said. She explained that she had read about how hard it is for people to process all impacts of COVID. “People have had to put aside grief as things keep changing. There has never been an actual time to deal with it.”

The group wanted to focus on Tillamook County and Oregon, Goodwin explained. They also needed to find a way to have a memorial that was COVID safe. A display of flags was chosen after seeing displays being done in other areas. “We wanted to create a unifying event,” she said. “COVID affects everyone in the community, in some way.”

Community members and visitors were able to drop by and visit the memorial throughout the day. They could write their personal feelings and comments on flags, or on the paper around the empty chairs in the center. “There were powerful things written,” Goodwin said. The expressions were photographed and appear on the groups Facebook page.

The display started at 11:00 AM and ran all day. “We would have liked to have the memorial up longer,” Goodwin said. The group’s permit was for one day. She mentioned the things from early in the pandemic that most Americans had probably never dreamed they would see. “Empty shelves in the stores,” for example. “People going without food.” She added, “We don’t want people to forget the price that was paid.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is also a reminder that we are not out of the woods yet, as COVID-19 cases have increased in Tillamook County – 470 cases total with the first case in Tillamook County being reported on March 26, 2020. Currently over 22% of Tillamook County residents are vaccinated and over 46% of adults over 65 years have received at least their first dose of the vaccine. More vaccine is becoming available and the vaccination schedules are being accelerated. As we move through the COVID-19 tunnel to the light of a vaccinated public, we must continue to keep our guard up by wearing masks, washing our hands, watching our distance and staying home when we are ill.