Lawrence Officials Hold Empty Chair Vigil To Honor Residents Lost To Covid

LAWRENCE, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — About two dozen people gathered at the Empty Chair Memorial in Lawrence on Saturday morning to remember the city residents who have died from Covid-19.

Located across the street from Lawrence City Hall -- the memorial features 234 empty chairs -- each representing one person.

Martha Velez, the Lawrence Director of Health and Human Services, got emotional while speaking at the vigil.

"For me it's also very personal," she said. "Because a lot of the people that are sitting behind us -- the memorial -- were my family, were my grandparents."

Velez added that she would love to have a welcome back party in the common for the entire city once more people are vaccinated.

"The only way we do that is by putting a shot in our arm," she said.

Massachusetts State Senator Barry Finegold further emphasized the importance of getting more residents vaccinated against the virus, in order to prevent more chairs from being added to the memorial.

"Lawrence has one of the lowest percentages of people getting vaccinated, and we have to get those numbers up," Finegold said. "The community is scared about vaccinations and we have to change that mindset."

That comes as Lawrence recently opened it's own Covid-19 vaccination site --- where officials are administering about 600 doses per week.

Lawrence Mayor Kendrys Vasquez, who was sworn in in January, also spoke at the vigil about the impact the virus has had on his life.

"[It] brought me back to the first person that was very close to me," Vasquez said. "When she passed away, I couldn't go to the funeral, I couldn't go hug the family members, I couldn't say goodbye to this individual -- so it becomes very personal."

Lawrence resident Jessica Aquino ended the ceremony by singing a prayer in Spanish.

WBZ NewsRadio's Suzanne Sausville (@wbzSausville) reports.

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Written by Rachel Armany

(Photo: WBZ NewsRadio/Suzanne Sausville)

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