MISSOULA — Missoula is ready to move past the pandemic.
It’s evident as the community bounces back with resiliency and excitement -- attending concerts, giving hugs, and returning to “normal.”
Despite how far the community has come, the impacts of the last 15 months will impact some people for years to come.
“We lived through a pandemic, we're still living through a pandemic,” said St. Patrick Hospital Chief Mission Officer Karen Myers.
Thursday morning, healthcare workers at St. Patrick Hospital gathered on the lawn for a ceremony honoring patients who have died from the virus.
“We had the caregivers who cared for a COVID patient come and place a flag in the grass. Each flag represents a life that was lost, so we have 82 flags that are placed right there today,” Myers told MTN News.
Eighty-two people came to St. Patrick Hospital diagnosed with COVID and later died within their walls -- forever changing the lives of their families, friends, and those who cared for them.
"It was very emotional….it was very emotional watching our nurses and our respiratory therapists place those flags individually,” said Myers. “It was really overwhelming to know that every one of those flags represents a person.”
While the flags represent the tragedy of lives lost, Myers said they also represent a step forward.
“It was a way to bring about healing. Healing for our community, healing for Providence, but really healing, especially for the nurses, doctors, and respiratory therapists who were at the bedside, who witnessed and bore witness to the loss of life, and were the ones who watched them breathe their last breath.”
For those passing by the hospital, the flags serve as a solemn reminder of the duty of a frontline worker. “It's never easy, young or old, COVID or not. It's never easy,” said Myers.
You can see those flags for yourself and have a moment to reflect anytime through July 28.