The coronavirus pandemic is becoming synonymous with cancelled events. From birthday parties to Halloween, citizens have had to come up with new ways to experience yearly traditions.
Most recently, many remembrance events for the September 11th attacks were cancelled. Though this shouldn’t have come as a surprise considering the state of the country, something was haunting about the change.
When the National September 11 Memorial & Museum announced that the recognizable beams of light would not be going ahead this year, the impact of the pandemic was truly felt.
But readjusting to the new normal has had to become second nature to many.
Instead, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum announced a campaign to replace the Tribute in Light. Buildings across the country lit up their spires blue in memorial.
In another change, the yearly tradition of having relatives of the dead reading the names of all those who lost their lives had to be changed. Fears over the inability to social distance prevented this tradition from going ahead. Instead, a recorded version played at the ceremony. At the ceremony, everyone was required to wear masks.
Yet the Memorial & Museum weren’t the only ones who felt the need to mark the occasion.
In Iowa, one citizen has been unusually marking the occasion. Derek Sparks, a HyVee district store director, wanted to make sure his gratitude for local emergency responders was heard.
To commemorate both the occasion and the work these emergency responders do, he made custom challenge coins. Challenge coins are tokens bearing a design related to an organization. They are often associated with law enforcement but can be used for any community.
Sparks is a volunteer for Pella Community Ambulance, so understands the impact of their work. Speaking to KNIA-KRLS, he said:
“We came up with a challenge coin that recognizes the police, sheriff, EMS, fire and dispatchers, and I could personally deliver these to all the stations in the county. The reason for that is some are having meetings, some aren’t, due to COVID, things are different. I got to actually attend some of the meetings, and I got to drop it off to the chief for them to distribute however they would like. I made it clear that it’s a token of appreciation. It’s not about HyVee, it’s about the job in general, and we’re able to recognize them in this way, and there’s a ton of people behind this that feel the same way.”
Companies like Challenge Coins Ltd. are set up for acts of unity like Sparks’. In a time as isolated as this, memorializing such an important event, bringing communities together and making people feel valued goes a long way.
The world we live in now is almost unrecognizable. But the world still marking key occasions like 9/11 show that life, though different, still has a strong sense of community. People like Derek Sparks show that the individual desire to do something good still reigns strong. Hopefully, this is something that cannot be taken away.