The Detroit Free Press is reporting live Monday from Belle Isle in Detroit, where families of those lost to COVID-19 will be taking part in an all-day memorial event to honor their loved ones. This file will be updated as the day unfolds and times are approximate:
The seventh process begins. The processions were expected to extend to about 4 p.m.
The sixth procession begins.
Kevin Charles drove alone to honor his brother, Michael Charles, who died May 16.
He shared how his brother loved to bike with the Slow Roll bicycle group rides held throughout the city. “It’s great to be remembered. It was wonderful,” said Kevin Charles of the memorial event.
Detroit Police photographer Reggie Burks stopped at the island to get pictures of the photo memorials to his departed colleagues. There are at least nine officers who have died.
“It’s kind of like walking through a cemetery, but you’re looking at photographs instead of tombstones…It’s so serene,” said Burks.
Among the victims was his former roommate, William Thurston Armor,
who died in April of COVID-19 at DMC Sinai Grace Hospital and was on a ventilator before he passed.
Burks, who has recovered from COVID-19, said, “I wish there was more we could have done for them … It went too fast.”
The level of loss Detroit has experienced continued to permeate the island as the fifth process entered the island. Music could be heard from inside the vehicles, some of it part of an audio program provided by WRCF-FM. There was gospel music and opera and the song “What A Wonderful World.”
Laneeka Barksdale, known as “Nikki” to her family, was 47 years old when she died on March 23 from COVID-19.
Driving through the memorial was “bittersweet,” said her sister Kionna Barksdale-Matthews.
Barksdale-Matthews’ white t-shirt featured her sister’s smiling face and the words: “Our dancing angel.”
“She was known as Detroit’s ballroom queen,” said Laneeka Barksdale’s mother, Stephanie Barksdale, describing her daughter’s love of dance.
“There’s not a moment in the day that I’m not thinking about my mom. There are days that I can’t sleep,” said Laneeka Barksdale’s son, Tyree, 18, who recently graduated from University Preparatory Academy High School.
More:Ballroom dance community rocked by coronavirus, including multiple deaths
Kionna Barksdale-Matthews said it was “disturbing” to see that COVID-19 hit the African American community so hard. “It’s really so many faces.”
The third procession was on the island, 46 cars in total. The blank stares on some of the family members said it all, as they looked at the portraits of those lost during the pandemic. Tears drenched the face of an elderly woman in the back seat of an SUV, who was sitting next to children and trying to compose herself.
Tanzania Alexander, accompanied by her mother and daughter, spoke to the Free Press after leaving Belle Isle.
“My father was a victim of COVID, along with other things, and I just think that this is really nice for the city of Detroit to memorialize these victims.”
Tanzania Alexander’s father, Walter, was 65 and died April 8.
Some cars started honking as a sign of love. Vehicles from the initial processions began to leave the island. Most of them had their lights on. There was a sense of palpable sorrow as the first wave slowly departed Belle Isle.
One by one, cars of mourners in the procession came through, cell phones in hand, to record the moment unfolding in front of them and the comments of the dignitaries speaking.
A link has been posted to your Facebook feed.
One woman paused for a minute in front of the photo of one of the victims, Carrie Amos, and wiped her eyes as she stared at the image.
Cher Coner, 50, said that she lost her mother on April 8 to sepsis.
Coner’s mother, 73 and a lifelong Detroiter, died in Sacramento. The family was unable to have a funeral because of the pandemic’s restrictions.
“All I could do was sit down and cry,” she said.
On a city of Detroit zoom call held in April, Coner suggested a service to honor those lost during the pandemic. Her idea helped spark Monday’s procession, according to Du…