Detroit Regional Chamber > Citywide Memorial Honors COVID-19 Victims, Commemorates Detroit’s Resiliency

Citywide Memorial Honors COVID-19 Victims, Commemorates Detroit’s Resiliency

August 31, 2020
Mayor Mike Duggan has declared Monday, Aug. 31 Detroit Memorial Day.

The City of Detroit hosted a Memorial Drive around Belle Isle to honor many of the Detroiters we have lost to COVID-19 this year. On Sunday, the City of Detroit also hosted intimate events in the City’s seven districts on the eve of the memorial, to salute front-line workers from across Detroit.

Detroit Memorial Day is a time to remember those who did not have the funerals and home-goings they deserved.

“Detroiters care deeply for one another and we felt it was important and necessary to provide an opportunity for members of this community to collectively celebrate the lives of those we’ve lost to this terrible virus,” said Mayor Duggan. “This is how we begin the healing process.”

On Aug. 31, Detroit Memorial Day, families drove their cars in 15 consecutive funeral processions past nearly 900 billboard-sized photos of loved ones staked around the island. The photos represent a majority of the 1,500 Detroiters lost to the virus through early August. Family members provided each of the images being displayed along the memorial drive route. The public is asked to visit the Island to see the photos next Tuesday and Wednesday.

The City of Detroit shares a powerful memorial collage with faces of 900 of the city’s 1,500 COVID victims.

WRCJ 90.9 FM is partnering with the City to provide the soundtrack for the Memorial Drive. Mourners—and residents across the city –  will be asked to tune their radios to 90.9 all day so the sounds of gospel, classical, and jazz music will rise up like thunder along the river and around Detroit.

“If we couldn’t have the symphony come to the island, we can have the island play the symphony,” said Rochelle Riley, director of arts and culture for the city and coordinator of the memorial.

The Ford Motor Company Fund was the Presenting Sponsor of the Memorial Drive. After the Monday processions, the City arranged for repasts, or dinner, for the nearly 900 families, thanks to the hardworking restaurants that just recently fed front-line workers.

United Way of Southeastern Michigan and TCF Bank were the Presenting Sponsors of the Memorial Repast.

In addition to the Presenting Sponsor and Repast Sponsors, the City deeply thanks all those who are still contributing, including Huntington Bank, Walker-Miller Energy Services, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Global Automotive Alliance, The Library Collective, Century Partners, The Parade Company, the Detroit Tigers, and members of the Memorial Steering Committee.

Riley said she chose a memorial drive, not just for social distancing, but because it was a chance to make people understand the seriousness of the pandemic.

“People are not seeing flag-draped coffins coming home from war or attending daily funerals,” she said. “We need to see hearses. We need to see the mourning so that everyone will understand that this is a pandemic that is stealing people away from us.”

The Memorial Drive was possible only because family members agree not to leave their cars, thus abiding by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s mandate against social gathering. Families can return on Tuesday and Wednesday. to take photos with the billboards or place memorabilia near the photos.

All families that followed the guidelines will receive the large billboard photos of their loved ones as a gift from the city the day after the event.

For more information about the memorial contact Rochelle Riley, director of arts and culture at (313) 720-1016 or