Vigil held at Statehouse in honor of those lost to COVID-19 over past year

By Anna Darling

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WLFI) - People gathered at the Indiana Statehouse on Tuesday to mourn the losses of COVID-19, and to send a message to lawmakers across the state.

Hoosier Action hosted the event. They are a non-partisan, statewide member-led community organization advocating at the statehouse for issues everyday Hoosiers face.

As we've previously reported, March marks one year since COVID-19 struck Indiana. Tuesday's event began with a vigil and words from faith leaders from several different religions. 

"We are one in our humanity," said Rabbi Brett Krichiver from the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation. "Plague has brought us together in sacrifice and celebrating our freedom."

"Put grief into God's hands and don't let it become bigger than life," said Imam Michael Saahir of the Nur-Allah Islamic Center in Indianapolis. "There are lessons in this situation we must listen to."

"Death won't get the last word," said Pastor Amanda Meade from First Christian Church in Jeffersonville. "We must acknowledge our grief and finding meaning in it."

As a list of people lost to COVID-19 was read, people brought up flowers and photographs of their loved ones lost to honor their legacies.

Kim White-Mills is a leader with Hoosier Action. She said they have been advocating for bills at the Statehouse for three weeks now, with much of their advocacy falling on deaf ears. They want to see elected leaders take action to help their fellow Hoosiers.

"The hope for the future is that our legislators can take a look at the individual experiences of Hoosiers from across the state and they should take that into account as they pass legislation," she said.

Speakers at the event talked about how COVID has exacerbated other issues facing Hoosiers that need addressed. Such as the opioid and addiction crisis, mental health, unemployment, access to health care environmental impacts on health and workplace accommodations for pregnant mothers.

Local lawmakers say they understand the pain people have gone through, and will do their best to stand up for those people.

"Yes we are facing some huge issues this year, but we face these issues every year and we have neglected to invest in people," said State Representative Chris Campbell, (D) District 26.

"I know I've thought about my parents a lot in this when helping people and thought to myself if that was my mom and dad, what would I want?" said State Senator Ron Alting, (R) District 22.

Both State Rep. Campbell and State Sen. Alting said they have lost friends at the hands of COVID and have received dozens of calls from constituents who are concerned about their quality of life. Both also said they plan to use those experiences to impact their decision making as they vote on legislation.

The Hoosier Action Resource Center will also release a white paper report detailing the struggles Hoosiers have faced in the past year. White-Mills said this document was put together by a research team at Hoosier Action. They spent several months putting together a report on the many issues they are advocating for. It will eventually be published to the Hoosier Action LinkTree website.

There is still some time for bills to be addressed here at the statehouse. We are a little over a month away from the end of the legislative session on April 29th.

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