COVID-19

‘Covid, Covid, Covid’ – Sadness in New York Cemetery

New York City is quiet, most activities stall. Particularly, those who care for the dead race against time with many funerals that they cannot keep up.

'Covid, Covid, Covid' - Sadness in New York Cemetery

New York City is in a very good season this time, but the devastating Covid-19 epidemic has left about 15,000 people dead here as of April 22. This is five times the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001.

'Covid, Covid, Covid' - Sadness in New York Cemetery

When the rabbi Shmuel Plafker arrived at the cemetery, he found the scene in a noisy, rushed place.

'Covid, Covid, Covid' - Sadness in New York Cemetery

It was the rush of cars carrying corpses, and the soil was thrown up when the workers dug the graves. The row of white signs on the ground marks the cells that are about to be laid down, reported by the AP .

'Covid, Covid, Covid' - Sadness in New York Cemetery

In the photo, cleric Plafker has just removed his protective gear after a day of many funerals on April 6. Amid the world at home, the New York epidemic suffered more than 10,000 deaths, funeral staff, cemetery workers and those responsible for bringing the dead to their resting places. .

'Covid, Covid, Covid' - Sadness in New York Cemetery

Mr. Plafker, who specializes in performing ceremonies at Mount Richmond Cemetery in Staten Island, New York City, is holding a long list of burials. The note column indicates the cause of death: “Covid”, “Covid”, “Covid”.

'Covid, Covid, Covid' - Sadness in New York Cemetery

New York City is beautiful at this time of year, when cherry blossoms, magnolia, daffodils bloom, grass grow green. But Rabbi Plafker feels that this spring vitality contrasts with the death around him. “Spring has arrived. Everything is racing and people are dying. ”

'Covid, Covid, Covid' - Sadness in New York Cemetery

Jason Boxer burst into tears when he witnessed the funeral of his father, Allen Boxer, from the car on April 12. “He was kind, friendly and the most generous of the people I know,” Boxer told his father, a veteran of the US Army . “I’m miserable, miserable,” he said about not being able to stand by and take his father to his resting place.

'Covid, Covid, Covid' - Sadness in New York Cemetery

“Feeling deeply sad,” Rabbi Plafker told AP . “If not for this epidemic, they are still alive, maybe healthy or ill, but they are still alive.” Many funerals are not accompanied by escort, because the family has to isolate themselves, or because of travel restrictions. Those who arrived could not stand by the grave, but had to listen to Mr. Plafker’s word by phone, from the car parked at a distance of 20 meters.

'Covid, Covid, Covid' - Sadness in New York Cemetery

“Sad, very sad, I feel sad for them because they want to witness it directly, but they cannot. They have to be in the car, can’t be around and cry like normal, ”grave digger Thomas Cortez (left) told AP.

'Covid, Covid, Covid' - Sadness in New York Cemetery

The graveyard is managed by the Jewish Free Burial Association, which organizes burial for the deceased Jews without relatives. A century ago, this organization used to bury their dead because the 1918 pandemic, and then the Jews used to escape the genocide of the German Nazis. And now, those who died from Covid-19.

'Covid, Covid, Covid' - Sadness in New York Cemetery

Many burial officers continued to go to the cemetery, washing their hands in strict accordance with Jewish rules. They once buried an average person a day, 5 days busy day. But just now, one day they buried 11 people. Everyone was tired, answering dozens of simultaneous calls, or texting each other about death certificates at 2am.

'Covid, Covid, Covid' - Sadness in New York Cemetery

Judaism requires burial of the dead as soon as possible, but these days, it is a challenge. Companies transporting bodies were overloaded, the result of “chain” overload at funeral homes and hospitals.

'Covid, Covid, Covid' - Sadness in New York Cemetery

“The coffin company doesn’t have enough coffins,” James Donofrio (pictured, blue shirt), funeral director for funerals at Mount Richmond Cemetery, told AP .

'Covid, Covid, Covid' - Sadness in New York Cemetery

Before the outbreak of the disease, the Free Jewish burial organization prepared coffins, protective gear, and extra body storage, enough room for four more bodies. They thought it was enough, but now, they had to move to a refrigerated car with a capacity of 20 bodies. In the photo, grave digger Thomas Cortez standing in front of a refrigerated truck was transported until April 7 to “catch up” with soaring bodies, most of whom were Covid-19 victims.

'Covid, Covid, Covid' - Sadness in New York Cemetery

Michael Tokar is looking from the car to see off his father who died at 92 because of Covid-19, David Tokar. His father developed symptoms of cough and fever, and died just two days after being admitted to the hospital.

'Covid, Covid, Covid' - Sadness in New York Cemetery

Michael Tokar (holding a picture) had been to the cemetery the day before, but the body of his father (who was in the photo frame) had not been brought to the cemetery because of a hospital delay. Now, Mr. Tokar is in the car waiting for Priest Plafker to call when the ceremony begins. Finally, Mr. Tokar’s phone rang, and it was Mr. Plafker.

'Covid, Covid, Covid' - Sadness in New York Cemetery

Prayer had begun, and he described each step to Mr. Tokar. “I am going to help some people take the bodies down … we are going to cover the bodies,” Mr. Plafker said, then asked if Mr. Tokar wanted to say anything about his father. Pictured is the house of Michael Tokar.

'Covid, Covid, Covid' - Sadness in New York Cemetery

“He was born 92 years ago,” Mr. Tokar said by phone, adding a few more details to paint a portrait of his father – a person who likes collecting stamps, loves betting on horse racing, loves his grandchildren. In the photo, Mr. Tokar took his father’s ring, which he received back after the funeral. “My father wears this ring all his life, and I want to keep it. It was the best memory, as part of my father, ”Mr. Tokar said.

'Covid, Covid, Covid' - Sadness in New York Cemetery

The rabbi read the prayers, and said Tokar’s father would continue to live in the hearts of those who loved him, praying that the “terrible epidemic” would eventually pass away. The ceremony ends in 10 minutes. In the photo, Mr. Tokar cleans his father’s apartment. “I miss him, I want to call him, ask what he needs, what he wants.”

'Covid, Covid, Covid' - Sadness in New York Cemetery

Thomas Cortez is signaling to a colleague to stop the coffin truck in position, on April 8. On the coffin is engraved with the star David and the six-pointed star symbol of Judaism. Two of his friends died. He and his synonyms are also concerned about their health. His job is sad work, but needs to continue. Another funeral is about to begin.

'Covid, Covid, Covid' - Sadness in New York Cemetery
Rabbi Plafker closed the gate after a day of ceremonies for the victims of Covid-19. Outside the cemetery, flowers are still blooming and grass is still green.

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