Hamblen County memorial honors those who have lost their lives to COVID-19

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MORRISTOWN, Tenn. (WATE) — Outside of the Hamblen County Courthouse, 109 chairs were placed marking the number of people in Hamblen County who have lost their lives to the coronavirus.

Each chair had a flag placed in front of it. Some had names, some were blank. All of them represent a person who passed.

“People, they don’t realize until it touches you how hard it is. This is a person on each chair,” said Donna Smith. She lost her mother, Mildred Bowlin, to COVID-19 back in October. Her mother’s name is one of the 109 displayed in front of the courthouse.

“She loved to dress up, she loved to go to church, sing music, dance, she was just so much fun, everybody loved her,” Donna said.

Not even six months ago, Mildred Bowlin was alive and mostly healthy. Her daughters were able to talk to her, hear her laugh, see her smile.

“She contracted Covid in September,” Her other daughter Brenda said. “She was taken to Morristown Hamblen Hospital and she was in there for 19 days. She died on Oct. 8.”

Mildred’s name is now one of over 100 in Hamblen County, and one of hundreds of thousands in the country.

“This number of chairs here breaks my heart. 400,000 is just too much to bear,” Brenda said.

The organizers of this memorial, Beth Tedder and Jaymie Rusinol, came up with the idea after seeing a post in a community Facebook group wanting to honor those lives lost in Hamblen County.

“Jaymie and I both just said hey, that’s a good idea, let’s run with it,” Tedder said.

Families were given the opportunity to honor and recognize their loved ones. Many of them lost family members recently.

“It represents that these are lives lost in our community and they’re not just a number and they’re not just a statistic and they’re not just another line on a graph, they are a part of our community,” Rusinol said.

The flag memorial will remain in place until the end of this month.

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