Editor’s Note: The following story is reposted from the Center for Cooperative Media blog.
By Betsy Abraham
A teacher who fled communism in Cuba. A prominent pediatrician who established a local ambulance squad. A 33-year old firefighter with two young children. A survivor of Auschwitz who helped make Holocaust curriculum mandatory in the public school system.
These are just a few of the remarkable New Jersey residents who lost their lives to COVID-19 over the last several months.
The pandemic has killed over 16,000 people in New Jersey, a number so staggering it is almost impossible to comprehend. Each one had a life story — and Loved and Lost wants to make sure they are not forgotten.
Loved and Lost is a statewide media collaborative that launched in June to name and celebrate the lives of every resident in our state lost to COVID-19. It is being coordinated by the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University and was originally a project of NorthJersey.com.
Recently, the project hit a few milestones.
First, we’ve now verified over 700 COVID-19 victims in New Jersey and added them to the wall of names on LovedandLostNJ.com. If you’ve lost a loved one, or know someone who has, we encourage you to visit LovedandLostNJ.com to share their name so we can include them.
Second, our core media partner, The Record/NorthJersey.com, has produced over 100 profiles of COVID-19 victims in our state. In total we’ve tracked more than 150 profiles produced by NorthJersey.com and our other media partners.
“I have read every one of these profiles and I’ve been struck by how distinctive, how unique each person’s story is,” said Jim O’Neill, assignment editor at NorthJersey.com. “Beyond the obvious loss of cherished bonds with family, friends and colleagues, this project illustrates just how much talent, skill and creativity we have lost in our New Jersey communities.”
Third, Loved and Lost is proud to have added more than 30 media and freelance partners to the project. As a statewide media collaborative, we hope Loved and Lost can draw on the strengths of newsrooms, media outlets and storytellers across New Jersey to help with its mission.
In addition to the stories we shared above, our partners have also written about a playwright who drew on personal experience to advocate for amputee rights, a 108-year-old beloved by her great-great grandchildren, an immigrant who worked hard to achieve the American dream, and so many more.
We’ve seen just how important this effort is to the families and friends left behind. More than 175 people have used our submission form to ask us to add their loved one to our wall of names, and many have expressed gratitude that a place exists where their loved one can be remembered.
And while we’ve already brought on 30 media partners, we are still actively looking for more to join us. Media partners play a crucial role by promoting the project, sending us links to profiles they’ve already completed, and continuing to produce stories about individuals who have died of COVID-19. Media partners interested in joining us can sign up here.
We’re also seeking financial support to help us keep Loved and Lost going. If you’re interested in supporting the project, you can visit the Center’s donation page to make a gift, or you can contact Center director Stefanie Murray at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss any grant opportunities.
What Loved and Lost aims to do is daunting, especially with the death toll growing each day. But we feel it’s incredibly important. Putting names and faces to the numbers not only helps us as a state better understand the human impact of the virus, but it is a way to make sure these residents — many of whom died alone in a hospital without loved ones by their side — are not overlooked.
Betsy Abraham is an award-winning journalist who loves telling the stories of people and the communities they influence. Prior to her work as a project manager with Loved and Lost, she helped oversee obituaries coverage at Newsday and was the managing editor at Anton Media Group, a chain of community newspapers on Long Island. Contact her at email@example.com.
About the Center for Cooperative Media: The Center is a grant-funded program of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. Its mission is to grow and strengthen local journalism, and in doing so serve New Jersey residents. The Center is supported with funding from Montclair State University, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, the New Jersey Local News Lab (a partnership of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, and Community Foundation of New Jersey), and the Abrams Foundation. For more information, visit CenterforCooperativeMedia.org.