It started thousands of deaths ago. Rima Samman’s brother died at 40 years old of COVID-19. This is back when families could not have proper funerals.

Rima’s small, human gesture of writing her brother’s name on a little rock and placing it on the beach at Belmar as a way to both say goodbye and to remember him was just the beginning. Perhaps to say to a huge, cold world that he had been here.

She asked on social media if anyone else who had lost a loved one to the virus would like to add a rock of their own. She had no idea how huge it would become.

This video shows the memorial at about 1,000 names but it was still growing.

In the end a massive display of several thousand names written on memorial stones were arranged inside many hearts constructed of yellow clam shells on the sand. It couldn’t stay though. Summer was coming and Belmar would need its beach back.

In May each stone was carefully glued in place and the entire memorial was moved piece by piece to storage.

Samman now reports that the COVID memorial will have a permanent home. Next month it is being moved to Allaire Community Farm in Wall Township. It’s a farm that does animal rescue and equine therapy and the 3,000 some names of loved ones lost to COVID will rest there permanently surrounded by a beautiful garden.

“We know that it’s going to be the right environment,” Samman told “We picked them because they’ve done a lot of work with war veterans who have PTSD. There’s a petting zoo for children.”

JoAnn Burney is Allaire’s executive director and she’s happy to take in the memorial. She points out they are a community farm and these thousands of loved ones were part of our New Jersey community.

My hope is this will stand the test of time and be there for generations to come. A time capsule of sorts, born of restrictions and heartache, to let the world know something extraordinary happened here once. Something we’d rather forget but we choose to remember.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski. Any opinions expressed are Jeff Deminski's own.

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