WEOS Finger Lakes Public Radio

500 bells to remember 500,000 people lost to COVID-19

Mar 1, 2021
Originally published on February 26, 2021 6:43 pm

You could hear the bells, bouncing off the brick buildings and the frozen Genesee River. Students from the University of Rochester Carillon Society rang them from high atop the University of Rochester’s Rush Rhees Library. Twelve rings a minute, 500 in total, to honor the half-million Americans who died of COVID-19 so far.

Sophomores Valerie Battista and Kayla Gunderson and senior Claire Janezic played them. 

Janezic said she is fortunate to not have lost someone to COVID-19 but wants the remembrance to help those who have.

“It’s a pretty momentous thing that we’re trying to commemorate,” said Janezic. “I was very conscious of the fact that people would be listening and I hope it brought some kind of healing for people. I don’t know if it did. I hope it did.”

Gunderson is trying to wrap her head around the loss of a half-million people.

“It’s really hard to comprehend that number, but I hope that the toll did mean something to people and helped them reflect on everything that has happened in the last year,” said Gunderson.

Carillon student Vanessa Wish said she’s glad to share the moment with the rest of the community.

“I thought it was just very moving,” said Wish. “I like that because of the nature of the instrument, it was in public for everyone to hear, not just our campus but people off campus as well.”

Marja Miklavcic, a junior, sat on a bench near the Eastman quad alone, quietly listening and observing. She called the experience sobering and all she could think of was a poem.

“There’s a poem by Donne -- I study Literature and History -- it says ‘Send not to know

For whom the bell tolls, It tolls for thee,’ and it just seemed significant and a good way to remember them,” said Miklavcic.