Memorial Day became an official national holiday in 1971 to honor Americans who died in military service, some 1.1. million people since the nation’s founding. But it feels appropriate to use the day this year to honor other Americans who have died from other cataclysmic events — the million who have been killed by the COVID-19 pandemic since 2020, and the 1.5 million who have been killed by firearms over the last four decades.
The number of civilian deaths from firearms is higher than the number of soldiers killed in every US conflict since the Revolutionary War.
Of course, numbers are inadequate shorthand for the horror and the grief that every death provokes. The country is in shock right now in the wake of the many mass shootings this month alone, including the 21 people killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and the ten people in Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York. We who live on try to honor the fallen through memorials– official ones, like Arlington National Cemetery, or the World War II Memorial, and raw, spontaneous memorials after every new tragedy.