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Main St. Baptist joins in nationwide COVID-19 memorial

At 5:30 p.m. Jan. 19, Main Street Baptist Church in downtown Smithfield rang its bell in unison with congregations across the country as part of a nationwide memorial ceremony hosted by President-elect Joe Biden’s inaugural committee to honor the 400,000-plus American lives lost to COVID-19 over the past year.

In Washington, D.C., the ceremony with President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris featured a lighting at the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial. In a press release, the inaugural committee invited Americans across the country to “come together for a national moment of unity and remembrance” by lighting a candle in the window, lighting up city buildings at 5:30 local time in a light amber color, or ringing a bell — as Main Street Baptist did — at 5:30 eastern time.

“The church is the foundation of all society, and in pivotal times such as this in our nation’s evolving history, we must stand tall in our most important religious and civic capacity, and duty to democracy to represent the church at large,” said Main Street Baptist Pastor James M. Harrison. “Unfortunately, we’ve lost a significant number of our citizens — family and friends — in our community to this dreaded pandemic, and we honor their lives and contributions to the fabric of this community.”

The United States — which saw its first confirmed case of the disease in Seattle nearly a year ago on Jan. 21, 2020 — crossed the 400,000-death milestone the morning of the ceremony, with the count at 400,292, according to Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.

It’s a figure nearly equal to the roughly 405,000 U.S. military casualties of World War II. According to the Associated Press, it took four months into the pandemic for the U.S. death toll to reach 100,000, but just over a month for the count to rise from 300,000 to the current total.

Biden and Harris will take the oath of office Jan. 20 to officially become the next president and vice president, respectively.