Michigan nurse to sing at COVID memorial ahead of Biden inauguration

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Washington — A Michigan nurse whose performance of "Amazing Grace" at a Livonia hospital went viral last year will sing at a nationwide memorial for those who have died from the coronavirus ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration. 

Nurse Lori Marie Key, 29, of Belleville is set to sing "Amazing Grace" as part of the tribute ceremony to be held at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool. 

Key worked in a COVID-19 unit at the peak of the pandemic last year — a time when the virus was "raging" in local hospitals and she and other front-line health professionals were under great stress.

A colleague at St. Mary Mercy Hospital in Livonia asked Key to sing during the "huddle," when nurses exchange notes about patient needs during a shift change. The video of her singing "Amazing Grace" went viral online. 

"Honestly, I sing at work whether there’s good days or bad days," Key said. "But in those times, it was bad days."

When she finished the song that day in April, she looked up and saw co-workers with tears in their eyes, yet smiling. "It had a very positive impact on my work family."

She starting singing as a child, growing up attending St. Phillip's Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit, where her mother sang and played the organ. 

Two weeks ago, Key was contacted about singing at the COVID memorial, which is to be Biden's first stop upon arriving in Washington on Tuesday ahead of his inauguration. The memorial is designed with 400 lights around the reflecting pool to honor the 400,000 American lives lost to COVID. 

Key recognized "a great opportunity in history" and said she readily agreed to participate. She attended the rehearsal Monday evening, where she had in mind her days on the COVID floor and the many stories her colleagues have relayed about their patients.

"When I'm up there singing, I'm really singing on behalf of how every health care worker is feeling everywhere," Key said. "Basically, this song is basically for everyone who went through something this year and still going through something now."

She said the choice of "Amazing Grace" in particular is appropriate for this moment in the pandemic, which has weighed heavy on so many families. 

"We're all looking for hope, you know? Something to kind of get us out of this negative mindset. 'Amazing Grace' helps give you encouragement," Key said. 

"Even though we're having all of these terrible events, we just have to remember that with God, everything is possible, and that his grace is what keeps us. We just got to remain hopeful."

Michigan nurse Lori Marie Key speaks to ABC's "Good Morning America" in April after a video went viral of her singing "Amazing Grace" on a COVID floor at St. Mary Mercy Hospital in Livonia.

Cities and towns across the nation, including Dearborn, have said they will join in the tribute for a national moment of unity at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday by illuminating iconic buildings such as the Empire State Building in New York and the Space Needle in Seattle.

Also participating in Tuesday's memorial are Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, who will deliver the invocation, and gospel singer Yolanda Adams, who will sing "Hallelujah."