Detroit Memorial Drive on Belle Isle to honor COVID-19 victims

Faces of Detroiter's we lost.
  • 15 funeral processions with the families of the deceased will drive around Belle Isle to honor the City’s 1,500 COVID-19 victims 
  • WRCJ 90.9 radio will offer the soundtrack for the memorial as well as live coverage and remarks by dignitaries  
  • Residents and businesses across the City are encouraged to ring bells at 8:45 a.m. Monday morning in memory of residents and as a show of solidarity for those grieving 
  • Code for live web streaming

Mayor Mike Duggan will join Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist to offer remarks to begin the Detroit Memorial Drive on Belle Isle to honor COVID-19 Victims on what is now the official Detroit Memorial Day. The celebration of life will comprise 15 funeral processions driving a dedicated route on Belle Isle and is the nation’s first citywide memorial to honor pandemic victims.

“Members of this community are grieving, it is important and necessary to provide an opportunity for families to celebrate those lost to this terrible disease and begin to heal,” said Mayor Duggan. “We are taking this time to reflect on what has been a very hard time for so many Detroiters and commemorate the lives of our neighbors who are no longer with us.”

“As we remember and honor all of those we have lost to this virus, we must not forget that COVID-19 is still very present in our state,” Governor Whitmer said. “Each life lost was a person who had a story: plans, dreams, and more life to live. We must all work together to slow the spread of this virus and prevent more devastation in our communities. We owe it to our families, our neighbors, the frontline workers, and to our fellow Michiganders to continue taking this virus seriously.”

Other speakers will include: Ford Motor Company Fund Director Pamela Alexander, TCF Financial Chairman Gary Torgow and United Way for Southeastern Michigan CEO Darienne Driver.  The Ford Motor Fund is the Presenting Sponsor of the drive. TCF Bank and United Way are the Memorial Repast sponsors providing dinner to families after the memorial.

Mourners will drive past nearly 900 billboard-sized photos of loved ones. The photos represent a majority of the 1,500 Detroiters lost to the virus between March and August 18.

Families have been assigned to one of 15 funeral processions, all led by hearses generously supplied and driven by area funeral homes. Members of the Belle Isle Conservancy, wearing white gloves and bright smiles, will greet families as they enter the Island and give them roses. WRCJ 90.9 radio will offer live coverage of the press conference and offer classical, jazz and gospel music all day. The entire city has been asked to tune to 90.9 Monday.

Monday’s memorial processions are strictly for families who have pre-registered to participate. The Memorial will be open to the public on Tuesday and Wednesday Sept 1. and Sept. 2, the public is encouraged not to touch the photos.

There will be absolutely no stopping during the processions. Families that would like to place flowers at the pictures of their loved ones are asked to do so during the public viewings on Tuesday, Sept. 1 or Wednesday, Sept. 2. The City of Detroit will gift the photo billboards to families who do not stop during the memorial on Friday September 4.

Families will be able to pick them up at the Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre parking lot at Atwater and Dubois from noon until 6 p.m. Friday. Families should ensure that they have room for a 4 x 4-foot billboard in their vehicles.

Citywide Ringing of Bells 
Following official remarks at the start of the memorial drive, residents and businesses across the City are encouraged to ring bells at 8:45 a.m. in memory of lost loved ones and as a show of support for those grieving.

"We are planning to have bells ringing from the Comerica Park scoreboard on Monday for 15 minutes beginning at 8:45. a.m.," said Ellen Hill Zeringue, vice president of marketing for the Detroit Tigers. Little Caesar's Arena also will feature a message on its marquee. We stand with the families who have lost loved ones to the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

In recognition of our families, several restaurants are offering Memorial repasts or dinners. Families can pre-order dinner until Sunday at noon and after Tuesday. The $80 voucher that each family will get expires on Sunday, September 6.

Rochelle Riley
[email protected]

Tracey Lynn Pearson
[email protected]

Volunteer Contact
Breanna Sullivan
[email protected].