Since March 2020, COVID-19 has brought significant changes to our everyday lives and has required tremendous sacrifice by everyone in the city. It has also showcased our ability to come together as Torontonians and support one another through incredible obstacles. As we take time to reflect on the past 12 months, we should use this opportunity to mourn those who have lost their lives, support those who have lost loved ones, recognize the contributions of frontline and essential workers, acknowledge the sacrifices made, and lift up those who continue to struggle with long-term health impacts as a result of the virus.
On Sunday, March 21, Mayor John Tory marked one year since the first death resulting from COVID-19 in Toronto with a virtual commemorative ceremony at Nathan Phillips Square. The sunset ceremony provided Torontonians with an opportunity to collectively remember the more than 2,750 lives lost in Toronto over the past 12 months.
To help pay tribute and recognize the incredible efforts of our frontline and essential workers, Mayor Tory announced he will be honouring different groups of frontline workers starting in March 2021, in an effort to show our appreciation for all of their hard work and commitment in keeping Toronto safe and healthy.
As we move closer towards recovery, we all must take time to remember and reflect. Find out how the City will be remembering those who lost their lives, commemorating their contributions and recognizing significant milestone dates.
On Sunday, March 21, the City of Toronto marked one year since the first death resulting from COVID-19 in Toronto with a commemoration ceremony. This ceremony provided the city with an opportunity to collectively honour the lives lost over the past 12 months.
In lieu of a public ceremony, Torontonians were encouraged to participate at home by turning on a porch/balcony light or placing a light in the window on the evening of March 21 in remembrance of those whose lives have been lost as a result of the pandemic. Residents and businesses were asked to share a picture of their light using #TOreflects.
The Mayor also reached out to Faith Communities to join the City in commemoration of the loss of life at their services held during the weekend of March 19 to 21.
The flags at Toronto City Hall and other City buildings were at half-mast to mark the City of Toronto’s Day of Remembrance for Lives Lost to COVID-19.
March 21, 2021
WHEREAS today we pause to remember and reflect on the many lives lost in Toronto as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sadly more than 2,700 Toronto residents have died due to COVID-19 in the past year. As Torontonians, we must remember and reflect on the loss of life as we continue our fight against COVID-19.
We reflect on the unexpected loss of beloved family members, friends and colleagues whose lives and contributions to our communities will never be forgotten. Today we take time to remember and commit to never forgetting those whose lives were taken too soon.
The grieving and deep sense of loss, at this very difficult time in the life of our city, our province and country as well as around the world, is keenly felt by us all.
Today, while we commemorate the lives lost, we also recognize those who worked tirelessly to care for those who fell ill due to COVID-19 and who work to support those living with the loss of loved ones. Our city has deep gratitude for all the frontline and essential workers who were vital in our response to the pandemic and who continue to work throughout the pandemic to ensure our residents are protected. We must all continue to support each other as we move to a time of healing and recovery in our city.
NOW THEREFORE, I, Mayor John Tory, on behalf of Toronto City Council, do hereby proclaim March 21, 2021 as “Day of Remembrance for Lives Lost to COVID-19” in the City of Toronto.
The City marked a number of COVID-19 milestone dates that are significant to Torontonians and remind us of the importance of our continued efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. Dates of significance and commemoration activities include:
These milestones, as well as videos and photographs gathered from the past year, will be shared at the City’s media briefings, on this web page and on City social channels.
On March 11, Mayor Tory shared his reflections on one year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 the cause of a global pandemic and how the City will participate in marking the National Day of Observance for COVID-19:
On March 10, Toronto Poet Laureate Al Moritz shared the following poem at Toronto City Council’s meeting to reflect on the effects of the pandemic in the last year and lives lost. Watch the reading on the City’s YouTube channel.
Memorial of a Plague Year: March 2020 – March 2021
You staggered from death to death.
You dragged yourself from the silent window
where an old face looked out and knocked
with twig-like fingers at children trying to shout
in through the crystal silence. “Grandma”—
babushka, aljida, babcia, nani, dadi,
abuelita, nana, bobe, bà, nagymama,
nona, pẫṭṭi, giagiá, avó…the cries broke
on all the walls and forbidden doors
of well-meant homes of rest. How you longed
to go in, to sit by them, hold them, each,
in their dying! How you longed for death to be
again as it should be: the dying one among us.
And exactly here the marvel spoke: your eyes
grew clear: you were holding them. In your shattered
longing you grasped them. The dividing plague
could not divide. We remained one. We still died
with the dying, they still lived with us. In yearning,
in dreams, in truth, we hugged the fallen silent head.
And then, worn out, scarred, from the crushing labour,
the sweet duty of companioning our dead,
we go back to daily things, our daily bread. And later,
working, aching, we notice through our pain
we’re slowly happy again. Broken, we find
a silent bearing of the dead inside us,
like a child newly conceived, like an immense
and beneficent idea, gift of refreshment to the world.
We just begin to glimpse it, a new health—
we can’t yet trace it clearly, but the work
inhabits us with passion at lonely desks,
or in companionable walks, in living rooms
and discussion halls, laboratories, councils, factories.
We work, we see another world. Our dead
are with us now more wholly. With them within us
we’re going to know them face to face again
as we did before on the poor beloved earth.
So we go forward through our home—Toronto!
meeting place—and every tree and corner,
every shop window that our grandmother knew,
every neighbour who once loved
to talk with her, who always stops us to recall
the same tender story, is a star now:
a star of soft radiant memory. A star of light
from the past for today,
of light from the dead
I wish I could put my arm around your shoulders,
be beside you. Soon! For now, though, plague
still stares between us. And yet
we don’t have far to go to reach the utmost sobs
of the splintering universe
and with our hug
bring them all back together, assemble them here
for a parliament of loves. What’s beauty in sorrow for,
what’s poetry for, if not to bring us near
while we’re alone until
our lips and hands touch? I can gather all
because I listen. I can hear
in my heart. You are more
than the helpless universe. We reach and bring
everything that has burst, broken, died,
left us, fled from us, everything
frozen in the space of death
back into the loving quiet
of a brook returning in late winter
to the young life of purling water. It’s March!—winter
kisses spring. We don’t have far to go—only from dusk
to morning—to gather the fragments of disaster
in music and tears. I see, hear, love
the men and women all around me,
I’m with them—here I am—I hug them
in the body of my song.