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Scarred by Covid, Survivors and Victims’ Families Aim to Be a Political Force

  • July 21, 2021

Others are learning as they go, including Karyn Bishof, 31, a former firefighter and single mother in Boca Raton, Fla., who founded the Covid-19 Longhauler Advocacy Project, and Pamela Addison, 36, a reading teacher from Waldwick, N.J., who founded the young widows group. “What sparked my political advocacy is my husband’s death,” Ms. Addison said.

In many ways, the people joining these groups echo those who lost loved ones on Sept. 11, 2001, and coalesced into a political force, pushing for an investigation that led to changes in intelligence gathering. Their numbers, however, are much greater. About 3,000 people died on 9/11; the pandemic has claimed more than 600,000 American lives, and more are dying of Covid each day.

But there are significant differences. Sept. 11 brought the country together. The pandemic tore an already divided nation further apart. It is perhaps paradoxical, then, that these victims and relatives are coming to Washington to ask that politics and partisanship be set aside and that Covid-19 be treated like any other disease.

“Unfortunately you have to use the political system to get anything done, but this is not really about politics,” said Kelly Keeney, 52, who says she has been sick for more than 500 days with the effects of Covid-19. Last week, she attended a Zoom advocacy training session run by Ms. Urquiza, who encouraged attendees to bring photographs of their loved ones to Washington for a candlelight memorial next week.

“We want to make sure that our legislators know the issues that are important to us and we are an organized front that cannot be ignored,” Ms. Urquiza said on the call.

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