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Light the Night: Remembering lives lost to COVID-19

Dane County and the City of Madison hosted a memorial honoring the nearly 300 residents who died during the pandemic.
Published: Mar. 2, 2021 at 12:07 AM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - One year ago, on February 29, 2020, the U.S. recorded its first coronavirus death. Since then, the nationwide pandemic death toll increased to more than 500,000.

Wisconsin accounts for 6,400 of those deaths, 4 percent of them in Dane County. On Monday, city and county officials honored the nearly 300 lives lost to COVID-19.

Among the people at Monday’s ceremony: the family of Dane County Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Treadwell. Treadwell passed away from COVID-19 in August, and his family said they were moved by this tribute.

“Just a few months ago, it seemed like he was only a number,” said Michael Treadwell, Rick Treadwell’s son. Rick is just one of 273 people in Dane County who have lost their lives to the virus.

“There are real people behind those numbers, real families that are affected,” Michael said, adding, “It’s crazy that last week was six months that we lost him.”

City and County officials honored those people behind the numbers and their families Monday, including Rick Treadwell.

“Those who passed were fathers and mothers, grandparents, beloved siblings,” said Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said, “Each one of their absences has left behind profound heartache, grief and loss.”

First responders from across the county gathered at the Alliant Energy Center to “Light the Night,” turning on their emergency lights for 27 minutes—one minute for every 10 lives.

“For everybody else that has been recognized tonight, it’s something very special,” Michael said of the tribute.

Michael added the show of support signals that his father’s story matters.

“We’ve heard so many different stories ever since his passing, even ones that we didn’t know,” he said, adding, “It’s incredible to step back and realize how many lives he was able to impact.”

Michael said he hopes this memorial reminds people that COVID-19 has affected the entire community.

“Whether it be their family or someone else’s family, it’s impacting a lot more than them,” he said.

Others at the memorial echoed Michael, saying it is important to remember the lives lost and stay on our guard, even as falling case numbers and the vaccine rollout are signs of hope.

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