"They were not simply names on a list. They were us," the newspaper wrote alongside the list of names

By Maria Pasquini
May 24, 2020 02:00 PM
The front page of the May 24, 2020 edition of the newspaper

The New York Times has put together a powerful tribute in memory of the thousands in the United States who have lost their lives to the novel coronavirus.

As the country prepares to pass a grim milestone, with the death toll expected to pass 100,000 before the end of the month, the newspaper filled its Sunday front page with the names of coronavirus victims and fragments from their obituaries.

“U.S. Deaths Near 100,000, an Incalculable Loss,” the headline of the newspaper reads, followed by the subheading: “They were not simply names on a list. They were us.”

In addition to covering the entire front page, which includes no other stories or images, the tribute, which highlights just 1 percent of the country's massive loss, continues onto three additional pages. As of Sunday morning, at least 97,059 people have died from COVID-19 related illness, according to the newspaper.

"We knew that there should be some way to try to reckon with that number," Simone Landon, assistant editor of the Times' Graphics desk, said in a feature published on Sunday, which explained how the publication decided on the moving tribute.

Recognizing that “there’s a little bit of a fatigue with the data,” Landon came up with the idea of putting together death notices and obituaries, which adds in a human element about “who these people were, the lives that they lived, what it means for us as a country.”

Chief Creative Officer Tom Bodkin, who has been with the newspaper for 40 years, said this was the only time in memory there were no images on the front page. “This is certainly a first in modern times,” he remarked.

The front page also generated passionate responses online from celebrities.

"Words cannot begin to do this image justice," wrote actor Josh Gad. "My heart goes out to every single person and very single family who has been affected by this unprecedented event. Love to you all."

"The news is sad every day but today’s paper made me stop in my tracks....." added coronavirus survivor and host Andy Cohen.

"This is our sobering & devastating reality. My prayers go out to families and loved ones who have suffered these losses," actress Tracee Ellis Ross wrote on Instagram.

Noting that the cover represented only a small fraction of loss, Katie Couric encouraged her followers to comment on her post with the names of their lost loved ones.

Although states are beginning to reopen and hope to gradually be able to return to normal life, coronavirus mortalities in the United States show no signs of stopping. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection Director Robert Redfield, current forecasts predict the country will surpass 100,000 deaths by June 1.

Many, including White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci, have also said that more waves of coronavirus cases are likely, especially if the country reopens too quickly without proper preventative measures. “If you’re not able to handle them, you’re going to see another peak," he warned earlier this month.

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