Kathleen Allan’s first email arrived in May, back when deaths from the coronavirus were climbing and the country was still figuring out the changing science behind the pandemic.
“As a retired nurse, I feel there is such a huge need for continual public health education on COVID,” the Lincoln woman wrote. “I’d really like to see a ‘campaign’ to get people in Lincoln wearing masks.”
As the months passed — and the numbers of dead rose in frightening fashion — Allan and I sent emails back and forth, cheering the Lincoln mask mandate, crestfallen by waves of rising cases across the land.
She sent me statistical models from researchers and remained vigilant in her own isolation from the wider world, a rare immune deficiency disease putting her at high risk if she were to contract the virus.
We’d met years ago, when Allan had organized local efforts for CAUSE — a national organization to help wounded soldiers at Walter Reed and other military hospitals during the Iraq war.
The Lincoln group hosted “Coffees for CAUSE,” collecting socks and razors and DVDs and books.
Allan called or sent the occasional email after that, sometimes gently chiding me when our politics clashed and she felt I was being unfairly harsh. She was kind and smart and thoughtful with her words.
The way she was during these long months of COVID-19.
“I just care about our community and I want to save lives,” she wrote this spring, recommending a doctor who used his social media platform to educate.
And she didn’t just care about saving lives; she cared about the lives lost.
“I am so frustrated about how this public health crisis has been handled at the state and federal levels … it didn’t have to be this way.
“My heart is just broken and burdened for this country.”
In August, she sent a link: “Few Signs of Collective Mourning as the United States approaches 170,000 Coronavirus Deaths.”
She found the story both interesting and concerning, she wrote.
“Something is very wrong in our society.”
In early September, as the number of dead soared, she sent another story: “Why our minds can’t make sense of COVID-19’s enormous death toll.”
And a few weeks ago, she was done talking about it.
She wanted to do something, she told me. And with help, she has.
It’s called: A Time of Remembrance to Honor. Hope. Heal.
It’s this Saturday — 10/10/20.
Her friend, Mark Markham, came up with the date during one of their frequent phone calls bemoaning the state of the country, everyone locked in their own corners, not looking up.
“We both agreed we needed to ‘do something,’” Allan said last week.
Markham is an internationally renowned pianist living in Baltimore. Allan heard him play with Lincoln's Symphony Orchestra in 2015, moved to tears by his music.
She wrote to him, expressing her thanks and the emotions she felt — joy for the first time since she lost her parents that summer, just 27 days apart.
A friendship grew.
And an urgency to take action in the face of a national silence.
“Those of us who have experienced loss know how much it means just to hear someone say, ‘I am so sorry for your loss,’” Allan says. “We need to do that as a society.”
A friend in Cleveland designed the simple visual. “Wherever you are, let’s join together 10 minutes to remember those who have lost their lives to COVID-19. Please take time to reflect and pray in your way to honor the victims of this virus.”
Her niece, Ashley Bernardi, in Washington, D.C., with her own marketing firm, had an idea: 10 minutes of prayer and reflection, starting at 10 a.m.
Bernardi and her group at Nardi Media wrote a news release and began spreading the word.
Over these long months, Allan has mourned the collective losses, her anger and frustration mounting over the lack of national empathy.
“I think the numbers are so big that they don’t translate into somebody’s mom, somebody’s child,” she says. “It’s like it didn’t happen.”
The woman who has devoted herself to doing — from Junior League to the Friendship Home, to Random Acts of Kindness groups and her daughter’s schools — couldn’t not do something during a devastating pandemic.
“Some kind of message of hope. Something small we can all do.”
She posted the details on her Facebook page Sunday morning and people shared.
“In a terrifying time where news is happening faster than ever and we’re getting no comfort, no empathy, from our leaders, this is a small action we can take to honor the more than 200,000 Americans who have died in this pandemic and their families,” one of them wrote on her own page. “Millions of us are grieving other losses. Lost jobs, high medical bills, family members with lasting medical complications from COVID, loss of routines. … The first step to healing trauma is acknowledging it.”
By Monday, a news release was complete and Allan began hearing from people across the country who promised to spread the word and to stop what they are doing Saturday morning to pause to remember. A professor at Georgetown. A former Husker volleyball coach. A yoga instructor in California.
Allan hopes the idea takes off.
She hopes there will be church bells ringing “across the land” at 10 a.m. on 10/10.
And one thing more.
“My ultimate hope is a return to I am my brother and sister’s keeper.”
Photos: Lincoln during the pandemic era
No Football Saturday
Lincoln Southwest volunteer
Mother/son art project
UNL in-person class
Farmers Market influencers
Soccer With Masks
Weeping Water vs. Fillmore Central/Exeter-Milligan
Back to UNL
First day of middle school
First day of school
Pius X volleyball practice
City Council BLM protest
Rally and hearing
Mask Video DeLones
Lincoln High School readiness days
Lancaster County Super Fair
LPS board meeting
Meatpacking workers rally
Lincoln Northeast graduation
Gov. Ricketts address Legislature
Drive-thru Bible School
LPS virus teachers
Shrine Bowl, 7.11
Make A Wish
Masked Archie the Mammoth
First Jury Trial in Four Months
Lincoln Children's Museum Reopening
Community Learning Center
Lincoln Community Playhouse
The Kindler Hotel
Garth Brooks Drive-In Concert
Urban Air Adventure Park
Gere Branch Library
Music on the Move
Bars Opening in Lincoln
LPS Teachers Retirement
Holmes Lake Manor Horse Visit
Lancaster County Courthouse
Church Social Distancing
Boys and Girls Club food distribution
Children of Smithfield
Parkview Christian Teacher Appreciation Day
Signs on South 16th
Reopening Hair Salon
Lincoln Christian 2020 Seniors
Test Nebraska site
Drive-Thru Career Fair
Center for People In Need food distribution
Former Cop Birthday Drive-by
Masks For Truckers
O Street cruising
Bryan Mobile Testing
Teacher and Staff Parade
Air and Army National Guard COVID-19 testing
Thanks to LJS
Eagle with PPE
COVID-19 State Employee Union
Herbie Husker Runzas
Virtual City Council
Drive-by Easter egg hunt
Watch: Lincoln neighbors sing 'The Old Rugged Cross'
Good Friday Music
Masks on a walk
Watch: A timelapse of the mural at Saro Cider
COVID-19 Workplace Safety
Watch: Steffany Lien twirls at birthday party
Shirts for FEMA
Watch: Hand sanitizer rolls off Innovation Campus assembly line
No fun here
Wildlife Safari Park
Nursing Home Horses
Tower Square sign
Noyes Art Gallery
Free ice cream
Coronavirus Testing CHI
Free lunch for truckers
WATCH: Celebrating a birthday with a parade
Restaurant takeout and delivery
Barber Shop Restrictions
Virus Nursing Homes
Simpsons in the windows
Virus Outbreak Nebraska
Drive-thru COVID-19 testing
UNL Beekeeping virtual class
Lincoln Lutheran Online Teaching
St. Patrick's Day
LPS Chromebook pickup
UNL Moving Out
Reach the writer at 402-473-7218 or email@example.com.
On Twitter @TheRealCLK
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