Spanish teacher Norman Kim-Senior recently arranged a school-wide memorial event to honor lives lost to the Covid-19 pandemic and look to the future with hope. The memorial lasted 14 days, or the length of a typical quarantine period, in recognition of the isolation felt by a person diagnosed with Covid-19.
The event began with a memorial service on the Front Circle organized with the help of the Vestry and the Service Council. Students joined in a moment of silence, listened to a moving song, heard a poem written by Kim-Senior, and prayed alongside each other.
The group then moved to March Library, where they quietly assembled the “Empty Chairs and Tables Memorial,” a dedicated space to listen, reflect, and share throughout the two-week program. The name was inspired by a song from Les Misérables, with lyrics that read: “There’s a grief that can’t be spoken / there’s a pain goes on and on / empty chairs at empty tables.”
With the help of librarians Anna Collins and Kate Newton, Kim-Senior also created a reading nook adjacent to the memorial. The materials offered a guide to dealing with grief and offered suggestions for the path forward. In addition, the space contained two art pieces from a collaboration between Sylvia Yang ’20 and Kim-Senior, music for meditation, and a diffuser with essential oils courtesy of Emily Straight, Episcopal’s community wellness coordinator.
On the final day, Kim-Senior invited the community to walk or run a mile to remember the global cost of the pandemic. Since the end of the memorial coincided with the Race for Hope in support of the National Brain Tumor Society, Kim-Senior seized the opportunity to support freshman Matt Zito’s efforts to introduce the Race for Hope to the community. The one-mile walk served as an embodiment of the words “we carry their light,” which functions as a call to action and a source of comfort.
This memorial was part of a broader project that Kim-Senior organized over the past year called A Mile With You. Washington and Lee University, Kim-Senior’s alma mater, featured the project after he completed a marathon around the streets of Alexandria and the Mt. Vernon Trail to help raise funds for local nonprofits and honor the grief that many are carrying during this pandemic.
“We certainly need something to contain the stress, process that stress, and get through the wall,” Kim-Senior told the university
. “We don’t know what’s coming down the road, so we need to strengthen ourselves. And while we’re doing that, if we can invite others on the journey and help a community, all the better.”
Follow along for more recaps through Kim-Senior’s A Mile With You
project or on Instagram