As of this writing, that’s the number of people in Johnson County who have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, according to county health data.
And while there are definite signs that we’re pulling out of the pandemic — this is, after all, our first real summer in two years — there is still so much loss to process.
We at the Shawnee Mission Post are just as excited as many of you to move forward from the past year. We have vacations planned, family members and friends to see in person, new restaurants to try, lives to live.
But for our neighbors and fellow community members who lost a friend or loved one to the disease, the pandemic will never truly be over.
Moving on, as it were, will be impossible. The pain and suffering caused by COVID-19 will linger and stay with some of us for the rest of our lives.
So, we wanted to make the effort during this transitional phase of the pandemic to look back, recognize and, in some way, honor those who we have lost to COVID-19.
The Johnson County COVID-19 Remembrance Project
That’s why we’re launching what we’re calling the Johnson County COVID-19 Remembrance Project.
Its aim is to tell the stories of people who lived or worked in Johnson County who died from COVID-19.
Our purpose is two-fold.
First, we want to create some kind of record of who we lost during this historic time.
So many stories of the past year have been told through data and statistics, but we want to make sure to communicate the real human cost COVID-19 had on our community.
Second, and just as important, we want to give our fellow Johnson Countians who are grieving an outlet. COVID-19 was a global public health crisis that impacted every aspect of our communal lives — the economy, education, politics — in sometimes painful and confusing ways.
Within that broader maelstrom, we sometimes may have lost sight of the very real personal tragedies being lived out and suffered through, often in isolation and relative obscurity.
We see the Johnson County COVID-19 Remembrance Project as a chance for those who had loved ones or friends die from the disease to tell those people’s stories in a context that acknowledges the circumstances of their deaths but celebrates the lives they led before COVID-19.
Here’s how you can help
If you have a friend or family member in Johnson County who died from COVID-19 who you think needs their story told, reach out to us:
We have one clear qualification.
Since the Post reports on Johnson County, we are only accepting the stories of people who lived or worked in Johnson County.
We realize this will potentially leave out people who were dear to Johnson Countians but who did not live here or have a direct impact on Johnson County.
Due to our own limited resources as a staff, we felt we had to draw the line somewhere.
We will accept short submissions written by our readers, roughly 250 to 300 words in length, telling us a loved one’s or friend’s life story.
These may, in practice, resemble obituaries, which often focus on a person’s life more than their death — their accomplishments, relationships, passions, hobbies and joys.
(The Post often publishes non-COVID-19-related obituaries submitted by readers. Here’s an example of one of those.)
If you don’t feel up to writing something yourself, you can still reach out to us. We are more than happy to work with you to try and put a story together for publication.
An important caveat
Personal health information is, by law and necessity, kept private in most circumstances.
We acknowledge that we will, in most cases, not be able to absolutely 100% fact-check whether someone died of COVID-19 or not.
So, for that reason, this project will operate largely on the honor system.
If you reach out to us, we’ll accept in good faith your loved one’s or friend’s story, but we may also ask follow-up questions to perform a measure of due diligence.
We want to hear from you.
We hope you feel able and willing to offer your loved one’s or friends’ story to the wider community.
As we move forward beyond this pandemic, we need to also look back and remember.