‘It’s still incredibly raw’: Covid memorial service at Sunderland Minster remembers those lost during the pandemic

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The second anniversary of the initial announcement of the national lockdown was marked today (Wednesday) during a service in remembrance of those killed by Covid-19.

The service – at Sunderland Minster – saw those who lost loved ones light candles and dedicate yellow ribbons in their memory. It was led by the Reverend Chris Howson who spoke emotionally of how he still struggled to forgive politicians like Boris Johnson who attended parties in Westminster during the pandemic as he presided over traumatic funerals.

One of those involved in organizing the service was Susie Crozier-Flintham – whose father Howard died on March 28, 2020. Susie, who is part of the Bereaved Covid-19 Families UK group – read a poem called ‘The Forsaken” at the service, while she also spoke of how “heartbreaking” it remains to see other families suffering Covid-related deaths like her even two years later.

Read more: Boris Johnson’s ‘garden party’ is ‘an insult’, says Sunderland woman who lost her father to Covid

She told ChronicleLive: “It’s incredibly emotional. The loss is still so raw two years later. We feel abandoned. We weren’t recognized during the first lockdown – or since. We’ve been disturbed by investigation. So it was really important for my city to do something to mark that.”

Howard Crozier – like his daughter – was a teacher and spent decades working at Heathfield High School in Gateshead. Susie added: “The government would have you believe that Covid is over. It’s not, people are still dying. For those of us who lost someone in the first wave, that’s particularly heartbreaking to know that this is continuing. If I lost someone today, I would be furious.”



The Reverend Chris Howson pictured during a service of reflection at Sunderland Minster marking the 2nd anniversary of the UK national lockdown

She also said it was vitally important for the UK Government to recognize that its policies towards Covid-19 had implications around the world, citing how it remains so important to ensure that countries around the world have access to the vaccines they need.

Head of the service, Rev Howson said: “I watched the BBC headlines this morning and realized that Covid isn’t even one of them. That’s interesting – because actually Covid is on the rise. The numbers are very high again, although slightly lower here in our city.”

He cited how there had been 1,751 recorded deaths in the city – up to March 4 – due to Covid-19, adding: “It’s such a huge number. It turns out that about one person in 250 have died in this city in the past two years. We want to remember those who died.

Families at the service reflected for 17 minutes and 51 seconds on those who had been lost and the incredible sacrifices made so far by people across society during the pandemic. The minister said the tribute was chosen because “it would just be too difficult to light all those candles”.

Rev Howson also pointed to the apparent double standard embodied by the series of Downing Street parties currently under investigation during the lockdown. He said: “So many people have played a part in supporting others during the lockdowns, but I can’t help but share my anger and disappointment when I found out that at No 10 Downing Street they throwing parties when I could only hold funerals with three people or less.

“I am a forgiving man and in the business of forgiveness, but it will take me a long time to forgive some of the things that have happened. But today the most important thing is to remember the joy that we shared with the people we loved and spent time with.”

The Lord Mayor of Sunderland, Councilor Harry Trueman, also spoke. He said: “It’s now been two years since we all listened to Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he announced the UK was going into an immediate nationwide lockdown. We were all told to stay at home, to work from home if possible, and only leave the house for essential reasons such as shopping or going to a doctor’s appointment or your daily exercise.

“We all helped our neighbors and friends. Schools were closed and most parents were also teachers – also juggling household chores. Now we’ve all eased our Covid restrictions because of what the government has told us , but we still need to do what we can slow the spread of the virus.”

The senior adviser said it was important to stay safe and look after the vulnerable, and added: “The devastating impact of the virus has been felt all over our city – we have sadly lost more than 1 000 people. My thoughts and condolences go out to everyone who has lost a loved one. We have all lost families, all friends lost to this terrible virus. We must remember those who died and acknowledge the grief and the pain of those who have lost loved ones.

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