‘Each one of those lives lost had meaning’: Tribute honors Dane County lives lost to COVID-19

MADISON, Wis. – A virus we can’t see has brought on all kinds of loss we can’t help but feel.

“We’re gathered to mourn our losses, which have been deep and painful,” Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said at a tribute Monday night.

The “Light the Night” event at the Alliant Energy Center honored the 273 Dane County lives lost to COVID-19 in the past 12 months.

“Each absence left behind profound grief and loss,” Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said. “Each one of those lives lost had meaning. They loved and were loved.”

Police, fire and EMS vehicles filled the parking lot. After remarks from Parisi and Rhodes-Conway, the emergency vehicles turned on their emergency lights for 27 silent minutes – one minute for every 10 people who died in Dane County from the coronavirus.

The public was welcome to watch. Betty Niesen called the tribute “moving.”

“It was very interesting to see for 27 minutes, those lights going,” Niesen said.

The lights honored people such as Dane County Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Treadwell, who died of COVID in the summer. Parisi brought attention to him and his service during the ceremony. Niesen knew him as a friend’s family member.

“(It was) very emotional,” she said. “It kind of brought back the day of the funeral.”

The tribute also cast light on the sacrifices of those still here: essential workers such as doctors, nurses, grocery store employees and teachers, along with everyday people who did what they could.

“You sewed and donated masks by the thousands. You stocked food pantries and donated to community-based organizations. You checked on your neighbors,” Rhodes-Conway said. “You found endless creative ways to care for our community and to spread light in the dark times.”

It’s light that’s now leading us out of this long tunnel.

“Amidst the sadness and sacrifice, there is also hope,” Rhodes-Conway said, “Here in Dane County, we have reached some significant milestones helping us turn the page on the pandemic. Today, the number of people receiving vaccine in Dane County far outpaces the number of people testing positive for COVID. The number of people fully vaccinated with two doses now exceeds the number of people who have gotten COVID over the past year.”

The city and county declared March 1st a day of remembrance and recovery.

“Tonight, as we are hopeful to begin the final phases through this journey, as we begin to emerge from the adversities of the past year, we will stand together to pay tribute to those we have lost,” Parisi said.

“It’s very important to remember that, because it could’ve been any one of us,” Niesen said.

Rhodes-Conway stressed as we move toward the pandemic’s end, it’s important everyone continue masking and distancing, as well as get the vaccine when the time comes.

“We will all emerge from this past year changed but filled with hope,” Parisi said.