Collage of 900 COVID-19 victims to be shown at Belle Isle

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — The city unveiled a collage Wednesday of 900 portraits submitted by families who have lost loved ones to COVID-19.

The residents who died from the novel coronavirus were included in the collage as part of a unique public memorial planned at Belle Isle State Park.

People will be able to see the billboard-sized photos staked around Belle Isle, plus the collage, created by artist Eric Millikin, during an all-day memorial drive on Monday, Duggan said.

Collage unveiled of 900 Detroiters.

About 15 funeral processions will be taking place Monday for families to drive by and have services they missed out on. The memorial will remain Tuesday and Wednesday for others to visit, officials said.

"Families and friends will be able to say goodbye, and the photos will be given to families when the memorial is over," said Rochelle Riley, Detroit's director of arts and culture. "Let the families mourn on Monday but on Tuesday and Wednesday see what COVID-19 has snatched from us."

More than 1,500 people in Detroit have died from COVID-19 complications — roughly 24% of all deaths in Michigan.

At 8:45 a.m. on Monday, the city is calling on residents everywhere to ring bells for 15 minutes in honor of the lives lost to the virus. Residents can also tune their radios to WRCJ, 90.9 FM, which will broadcast gospel, classical and jazz starting at 9 a.m. 

The drive will last from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Belle Isle will be closed to all public car, bike and pedestrian traffic for the day. The Memorial Drive is possible only because family members agree not to leave their cars, abiding by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s mandate against social gathering. Families can return on Tuesday and Wednesday to take photos with the billboards or place memorabilia near them.

At 4 p.m., after the final procession, the mourners and all Detroiters are asked to head home to watch the Ford Fireworks on WDIV (Ch. 4). There will be no in-person viewing of the fireworks this year.

If you sent a photo without hearing from the city, contact Riley at (313) 720-1016.

As of Wednesday, the city has had 13,546 cases of the virus and 1,507 deaths. 

Detroit has added about 200 cases and three deaths in the past week; the city's daily death toll peaked at 52 on April 16.

“The numbers in the Midwest are going up and they’re going up in Detroit,” Duggan said. “We’re seeing 20-30 new cases a day instead of 10. That’s a problem. We have crowds on the Riverfront, crowds downtown. Not a problem as long as you’re wearing a mask and spacing out.

“It’s going to be at least another four or five months of wearing masks or else the governor has to shut us down; she’s not going to have a choice,” he said.

The virus has been heavily concentrated in Districts 2 and 7 on the west side; however, it has been spread throughout the city, especially in long-term care facilities.

The memorial observances are intended to "be respectful of those we lost and to be sure it doesn't happen again," Duggan said.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_