ANNA MARIA, Fla. (WFLA) – On the northern end of Anna Maria Island, there’s a colorful display of ribbons hanging outside Cathy Tobias’ home. She created the art installation to honor and remember the lives lost throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
The display is made up of two things, twine and thousands of ribbons. The colorful display captures a grim reality — one ribbon for each person who died of COVID-19 in Florida.
“When we started in mid-November tying knots, the number was about 16,000, so we thought OK, we can do 16,000. Well, two and a half months later, it is 27,000,” said Tobias.
The chain of ribbons now stretches more than two and a half football fields in length and is growing everyday as the death toll in the state continues to climb.
“I wanted to create some sort of art installation that I felt offered a good physical and visual representation that could be meaningful and that as a community, we could come together and really grieve and memorialize and really heal together from all these losses that we have had in our community,” said Tobias. “I know each life exponentially affects a whole group of people, friends and family,” she continued.
Lucy Kanson is a part time resident who has helped Tobias grow the COVID Ribbon Memorial.
“I often have it just a draped all over and you get the sense of all of this life that has been lost weighing on you,” said Kanson. “We are a community and it is not just about taking care of yourself or believing or not believing, it is about all of us and all these lives, lived and lost,” she continued
Tobias would like to see the memorial displayed in public places across the Tampa Bay area and the state. She is planning to bring it to the beach on Anna Maria Island later this month.
“I don’t want this just sitting in my yard because that doesn’t get it out into the community. So for its first community event, we are bringing it out to the beach on Anna Maria. We are starting by Sandbar Restaurant at 100 Spring Street. We are going to stretch it all the way down the beach, then hold it up together and have a moment of silence and prayer,” said Tobias.
Since the chain spans more than 800 feet, Tobias is looking for people to help hold it up during the beach display scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 16 at 11 a.m.
Everyone will be required to wear a mask and social distance.
She is inviting anyone who has lost a family member to COVID-19 to participate and bring a marker to write their loved one’s name on one of the ribbons during the outdoor event.
For more details on the COVID Ribbon Memorial and how you can get involved, visit this Facebook page or email Tobias at firstname.lastname@example.org.