Cathedral bell tolls 500 times as U.S. reaches 500,000 COVID deaths

‘Soften our hearts’ prays Cathedral dean

The Washington National Cathedral’s mourning bell tolled 500 times today in the United States capital, marking 500,000 US lives lost to COVID-19.

The bell’s tolling was broadcast live on YouTube for almost 50 minutes, with one toll for every 1,000 deaths.

The Very Reverend Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of the Cathedral, has issued the following statement and prayer regarding Covid deaths.

We have reached the point in America where the death toll from COVID-19 for just one day was the equivalent of 16 fully loaded 737 jets falling from the sky. 

Think about that. We would never allow that kind of disaster to take place day after day in this country, and we certainly would never allow such tragedy to become normal or expected. And yet, the climbing death toll from this pandemic seems disturbingly routine. How awful that is.

As the Cathedral marks [500,000] lives lost to COVID-19, I have grown weary of tolling this bell. I don’t want to toll this bell any more. I don’t want to lose any more lives. I don’t want us to think this is normal, or that it is just the price we must pay for living in a free society …

The Christian faith teaches that each person is a beloved child of God, and that my well-being is deeply connected to your well-being. We are not lone individuals free from responsibility; rather, we are dependent upon one another for our very lives and commanded to love our neighbours as ourselves. 

There are simple things we can do — wear a mask, keep our distance, adjust our holiday plans — to show our mutual respect and concern for one another. Yes, we are tired from the confines and struggles of this pandemic … But now, more than ever, we have to protect each other because there has been far too much death. A vaccine [has arrived] and we will get through these difficult days, but we will only succeed if we do it together. 

Lord, in your mercy, heal us from this disease. Remove the blindness from our eyes that keeps us from seeing your face in our neighbour. Soften our hearts, give us strength to endure and the will to act for the common good. 

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer. 

Washington National Church also runs a weekly memorial service of prayer and remembrance for those lost to Covid-19. People of all religious affiliations are invited to submit the names of loved ones lost to Covid and they are read aloud.