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Mass Graves on Hart Island: He Knows Us All by Name

Hart Island is found a little way off the coast of Long Island. Nobody lives on Hart Island. It is the home, though, of a million bodies—bodies that have been buried there. It’s a place that’s known as a potter’s field. It’s a place meant for the homeless, the stillborn, poor immigrants, poets, and artists who died penniless. It’s a wasteland for the forgotten dead.

But its newest additions are those who have died from the coronavirus. (During the Covid-19 crisis they dug) … a mass grave on Hart Island. All of these bodies are placed in cheap, crate-like coffins, set side-by-side, as backhoes and men in hazmat suits cover them over with dirt. People dying without dignity, dying with disease, being buried, and being buried safely so as to contain the disease that still resides in their decaying skin.

On Hart Island, in the very middle of the island, there is a large, white cross, with black letters inscribed on the horizontal beam. Those letters read out this way: HE KNOWS US ALL BY NAME. The Risen Christ never forgets a name. He remembers. The stainless white cross that stands in the middle of Hart Island stands as the definitive public witness: He knows us all by name.


Ethan Magness, “Hart Island Will Rise—An Easter Reflection” Grace Anglican Online (4-12-20)

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