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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

1+1+1+1+1+3+1...= 120,000 AND COUNTING

by Peter Witt


120, 000 U.S. deaths
a big number,
about equal to the population of
Norman (OK),
Columbia (SC) or
Odessa (TX)

Does this get your attention?

To understand 120, 000
let's break it down
to 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1...
you get the idea,

with each 1 representing a life,
a real person,
someone from our community,
someone's family member.

1 was Yu Lihua, an important
Chinese American writer -
wrote mainly late at night,
smoked True menthol cigarettes.

1 was Valentina Blackhorse,
administrative assistant
for the Navajo Nation,
dreamed of one day
leading her tribe.
Family now raises her
one year old daughter.

1 was James Mahoney,
ICU doctor in New York,
cared for patients
through the HIV/AIDS epidemic,
9/11, the swine flu.
Due to retire
stayed onto help,
he saw it as his duty.

Another 1 was Judy Wilson-Griffen,
clinical nurse who cared
for nursing black women, helping
bring future generations
into the community of St. Louis.

Peter Bainum was 1,
aerospace engineer, who taught
at Howard university for 30 years.
sending students onto NASA
and the aerospace industry.

3 were Nicky, John, Leslie Leake,
Nicky planning wedding,
John the family cutup,
Leslie, dotting mother,
grandmother, great grandmother -
died within 20 days of each other
in Washington, D.C.

and not least was 1 Paul Cary
lifelong paramedic and firefighter,
drove 27 hours from Colorado
to the New York epicenter.
He was carried home in a succession
of ambulances, before his colleagues said
we have the watch from here.

1+ 1+ 1+1+1+3+1 until we have 100,000,
the count goes on,
...1 + 1 + 1+1...

120, 000 is a big number
made up of little numbers,
each of whom
we should never forget.

Author’s note: Life stories were taken from "Faces of the Dead," The Washington Post, May 28, 2020.

Peter Witt is a retired University Professor and 2020 Poet Laureate for the International Poetics Foundation.