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Remembering Carter County’s COVID-19’s victims

We will remember the past year as a year of absence.
The friends and family we missed seeing. Churches closed and on-line services substituted. Our favorite restaurants shut down. Jobs lost to economic devastation. Cherished moments — graduations, weddings, birthdays, funerals — gone.
But most of all, we remember the men and women stolen from us by an insidious virus that has torn swiftly and silently through our community. Here, in Carter County, we have already lost 147 men and women to the novel coronavirus. In Tennessee, the number of deaths as of Thursday was 10,985.
It’s a tragedy that has been told in unimaginable numbers. Almost every day, since the middle of last March, the numbers statewide have been reported daily in a grim tally. Then, the numbers picked up in Carter County — one dead, three, five. Not a local nursing home was spared. Some were able to hold it back for months, but, it eventually forced its way in the door, and when it did, there was sickness and death.
The death toll to the coronavirus ranks up there with the numbers lost in Vietnam, Korea, and World War II, combined. More than we could ever imagine.
But the numbers belie the depth of our loss, for lives are not counted so much in numbers, but in the passion and joy we bring to each other every day. We have all been touched by this tragedy. We are all less for the absence of those we’ve loved and lost.
It’s been almost a year since the pandemic hit our area. We are beginning to see some daylight at the end of a long night with more and more Carter Countians receiving the COVID-19 vaccines. But we have arrived at today with too many gone.
There’s the pastor you’ll no longer see at Biltmore Baptist Church, the long-time deacon at First Free Will Baptist Church; a husband and wife who died within days of each other; the car show fan who never missed a Saturday night in the downtown during the summer months; the retired school teacher; a grandfather who saw his first grandchild born and was able to hold it before the disease hit. Many were elderly. There were veterans who survived wars but not an invisible enemy that took away their breath. Many died alone in hospitals or nursing homes — COVID-19 robbing them of the chance to say a final goodbye.
We at the STAR would like to remember these people, pay tribute to them. If you know someone or someone in your family who lived in Carter County and has died from the coronavirus, please share it with us. Bring a photo by the STAR with their name, community they lived in, the date they died, their age, and their life’s work, and sometime in April we hope to publish a page in their memory.
We want to remember them all.
We will never forget.